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Making Waves in the Wearables Market

The CD2 Fellowship program challenges fellows—two physicians and two engineers— to identify a clinical need and develop a solution within one year. With protected and paid time to develop their solution along with additional instructional support, the goal is to create meaningful medical innovations that can improve treatment and results.”

Sonia Kim
Managing Director of Marketing and Commercialization Education, INVO

Being an innovative force in the explosive wearables market is nothing new for Northwestern University. Innovative research from the lab of Professor Tobin Marks (Weinberg) spurred the ascent of Polyera, a materials developer whose ActivInk technology has been applied to a diverse range of products from solar cells and sensors to RFID tags.

The research of Professor Mark Hersam’s (McCormick) group into premium single- and double-walled carbon nanotubes fueled NanoIntegris, a startup acquired by Raymor Industries in 2012. In the still-nascent wearables field, Northwestern is now quickening its pace. 

This year, Northwestern welcomed John Rogers (McCormick, Feinberg), a world-renowned scientist and pioneer in the field of bio-integrated electronic devices whose research is capable of changing the fields of industrial, consumer, and biocompatible electronics. By making semi-conductor devices look more and more like biology—think more temporary tattoo than wrist watch—Rogers blends the dynamic world of modern consumer electronics with human health, inspiring potential groundbreaking solutions such as implantable medical devices that can harvest energy from organs or automatically treat medical conditions.

Development of such wearable technologies is aided by one of Professor Rogers’ frequent collaborators,Professor Yonggang Huang (McCormick), whose work includes establishing mechanics and thermal analysis models for stretchable and flexible electronics, epidermal electronics and transient electronics, as well as 3D fabrication of any materials. Then, there is Bold Diagnostics, an award-winning venture fueled by the Center for Device Development’s (CD2) Innovation Fellowship program. Replacing the traditional bulky arm cuff for blood pressure measurement with Bold Bands, a wearable device that provides continuous blood pressure monitoring, Bold Diagnostics aims to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis from inaccurate readings and to drive more pinpoint treatment of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. After a successful run in the 2016 business plan competition circuit, Bold Diagnostics captured a first-place nod in the 2016 Create the Future Design Contest, an annual global event that rewards engineering innovation.