Pediatric Device Consortium Celebrates Future Innovations with $6.7M FDA Grant

UCSF ‘D’Vice Squad’ Welcomes New Partnership with Stanford

By Suzanne Leigh

Magnetic device that reshapes chest cavities
Magnetic devices that can reconfigure the formation of the chest wall. Photo by Susan Merrell

A hand-held, low-cost gadget that detects pneumonia in children who don’t have access to chest X-ray, a pressure sensing device that sends data to a physician’s office to track how long a child with a chest deformity is wearing their brace and an appliance that fits over the mouth of an infant with cleft palate enabling them to breastfeed. These are among the intriguing inventions developed for pediatric patients.

Now a $6.7 million grant to the newly named UCSF-Stanford Pediatric Device Consortium will enable the development of new gadgets for those medical conditions calling for a collaboration of geniuses.

The grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, announced Aug. 23, 2018, will be received over five years, in accordance with a program launched in 2009 under a mandate from Congress to stimulate the development of devices for the underserved pediatric market.

The consortium, which was founded at UC San Francisco in 2009, will be boosted by a partnership with the Stanford University School of Medicine, which will bring to the table its own fleet of physicians and other clinicians, engineers, IT and industry experts, and clinical fellows from its renowned Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign. Thanks to the zeal and energy of the participants, problems presented by clinicians in a weekly think tank meeting can result in a fully-fledged prototype just weeks later.

Magnetic Attraction Makes for Lighter Work in OR

The consortium, known to insiders as the D’Vice Squad, is led by its founder Michael Harrison, MD, who is also co-founder of the Fetal Treatment Center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. Harrison earned his innovator wings in 1981 when he performed the world’s first open fetal surgery. Today, 12 years after retirement, he is still reimagining novel solutions to old problems and plays a pivotal role in the consortium. He has shepherded the developments of devices like an implanted magnet that opens up the airways in people with sleep apnea, and coin-sized magnets used to cut off the blood supply to part of the large intestine in children with bowel obstruction, significantly reducing the invasiveness of surgery.

One of the most forward-thinking projects, which is among the most gratifying for Harrison, involves more magnets. This time, two magnets are used to reconfigure a condition affecting the breastbone known as sunken chest disorder. An internal magnet is attached to the sternum in a 30-minute surgery, and an external magnet is adjusted over time to gradually rebuild the chest wall. The procedure replaces what Harrison said is a “brutal” operation in which extreme pressure is applied to reposition the chest, followed by up to seven days of hospital recovery.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve been awarded the grant and anxious to take on more projects for children with medical conditions that detract from their quantity or quality of life,” said Harrison. “And we are looking forward to participation with our colleagues at Stanford.”

Collaboration Boost Opportunities for Tech Innovation

The Stanford team is led by James Wall, MD, a pediatric surgeon at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and assistant director for the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship, a training program that teaches aspiring innovators to solve health care problems with technology. Wall said he was excited by the collaboration as an opportunity to join the efforts of two great children’s hospitals.

“The pediatric medical device market is too often underserved by industry and entrepreneurs due to its small market size,” he said. “Developing better health technologies for children requires scale that can be achieved through this type of regional partnership, in conjunction with strong support from the FDA.”

UCSF Health is recognized worldwide for its highly innovative patient care, reflecting the latest medical knowledge, advanced technologies and pioneering research. It includes the flagship UCSF Medical Center, which is ranked among the top five hospitals nationwide, as well as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, with campuses in San Francisco and Oakland, Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians and the UCSF Faculty Practice. These hospitals serve as the academic medical center of the University of California, San Francisco, which is world-renowned for its graduate-level health sciences education and biomedical research. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. Visit Follow UCSF Health on Facebook or on Twitter.