Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

"I've always been a builder" —Rick Greenwald, National Academy of Inventors Fellow

By Anna Fiorentino
February 2017 • Thayer By Degrees:

Rick Greenwald
Rick Greenwald
, Adjunct Professor of Engineering, Co-Founder and President, Simbex

The inventions of Professor Rick Greenwald Th’88 have prevented injuries on the slopes, the trail, and the football field. And they are used in rehab centers all over the country.

His efforts were further rewarded in December when he was named a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) class of 2016 Fellow.

“It is a great honor to be part of the NAI community. It represents many years of collaborative work with my co-inventors and commercial partners,” says Professor Greenwald, who is one of 175 members in the 2016 NAI class and one of 757 total members. “A big thanks to Thayer Professor Emeritus Robert Dean Jr., who is also a NAI Fellow himself.”

Greenwald received the distinction for his work in sports injury prevention and medical devices. Most notably, his Head Impact Telemetry System™ (HITS) monitors the force, frequency, and location of contact in helmeted sports in an effort to reduce the incidence and severity of traumatic brain injury.

“HITS is being used to alert sideline medical staff in real time of potentially injurious blows to the head that might require medical attention,” says Greenwald. “It’s also used as a training and educational tool to teach proper tackling technique to minimize head impacts.”

With nine patents or patents pending for HITS, the technology, developed by his Lebanon-based company, Simbex, is commercially sold by helmet industry leader Riddell. HITS technology and data have also been used in federal research studies aimed at better understanding the biomechanical basis of concussion injury in helmeted sports.

Greenwald and his teams aim to ensure each one of their inventions is helping to reduce or prevent injuries in target populations, not only in sports but also through military applications, preventing falls in the elderly, and increasing mobility for amputees. Their inventions include:

In addition, Greenwald co-founded the nonprofit, National Institute for Sports Science and Safety, and venture-funded BionX (formerly iWalk), which produces bionic ankle prostheses.

All of it began with Greenwald’s own high school soccer ACL injury.

“As a teenager, that knee injury instigated my desire to improve treatments for ligament injuries in the knee,” he says. “After that, an NSF-funded high school summer research experience related to spine biomechanics at the University of Iowa propelled me towards biomedical engineering as a career and introduced me to medical technologies.”

Greenwald further explored his interest in ACL injury prevention, surgery and rehabilitation as part of his Master’s thesis at Thayer under John Collier, the Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation, and Adjunct Professor of Engineering and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery Michael Mayor, MD, and then also during his PhD at University of Utah.

“I have always been a builder,” adds Greenwald. “It’s been important to cross over from simply inventing things to developing them both technically and from a business perspective so that the invention can be brought to practical use.”

He puts that philosophy into action at Thayer by working with students to help them better understand the process of technology commercialization. Since 2000, 21 current and former Thayer students have worked at Simbex as either full-time employees, co-op students, or interns. David Eypper Th’09 has contributed his engineering expertise to Simbex since 2007; MEM graduate Aaron Buck was a key contributor on HITS product development for more than 10 years; and current Thayer PhD student Mike Kokko was a product manager translating several Simbex inventions from concept to market.

“Meanwhile, Dartmouth undergraduate and football player Kyran McKinney-Crudden ‘18 is currently doing a six-month co-op at Simbex working on several of my inventions,” says Greenwald.

Greenwald is co-director of two federally-funded centers helping small businesses with technology commercialization, is co-director of the FDA-funded nonprofit New England Pediatric Device Consortium, and works with with engineering professors Sol Diamond and Doug Van Citters at the Center for Translation of Rehabilitation Engineering Advances and Technology (TREAT), funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“I hope that I can work together with the NAI to improve the process of technology transfer from universities and small business to bring technologies and products to clinical and consumer use,” says Greenwald.

Tags: alumni, award, design, engineering in medicine, entrepreneurship, faculty, innovation, patent, students

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