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Dartmouth Engineering Students Win Funding for Health-Monitoring Invention

Jul 19, 2021   |   by Julie Bonette

Two Dartmouth Engineering PhD candidates developing "PulseFlex," a wearable blood pressure monitor, have received $5,000 in funding as part of the VentureWell Summer 2021 E-Team Grant Program. Congran (Billy) Jin and PhD Innovation Program Fellow Andrew Closson comprise one of 18 student teams accepted into Stage I of the program, which includes an intensive entrepreneurship workshop.

PulseFlex wearable blood pressure monitor. (Image courtesy Congran "Billy" Jin)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half a million deaths in 2018 in the United States included hypertension as a primary or contributing cause, and only approximately one in four adults with the condition have it under control. PulseFlex uses a flexible, low-power patch design that can continually monitor cardiovascular health for people with hypertension.

"In the current market, a lot of devices can monitor your heart rate, maybe your breath, but they cannot continuously monitor your blood pressure. So, there definitely is a gap, and we want to use our technology to try and fill that gap," said Jin.

Jin and Closson, both members of Professor John Zhang's lab, began developing the PulseFlex technology last year. They plan to spend the six-month grant period prototyping their device.

"The concept of a continuous blood pressure monitor emerged because our lab has spent the past five years developing implantable cardiac devices under the National Institutes of Health Director's Transformative Research Award program," said Zhang. "Human-centered engineering is the very definition of the core of what we do at Dartmouth. With such a diverse and talented student pool, we look forward to breakthroughs, soon, to better human health."

As part of the VentureWell program, the students will also take part in a weeklong entrepreneurship workshop later this month with the other grant recipients.

"This entrepreneurial, innovation-based workshop will be a deep dive into how to get a startup off the ground," said Closson. "We'll learn more about the given roles in entrepreneurship as well as find out more about commercializing our technology."

Closson, Jin, and Zhang are actively seeking additional student members to join the PulseFlex team as both Closson and Jin plan to graduate next year. (Interested undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those with computational skills, are encouraged to contact Closson or Jin.)

In the meantime, the PulseFlex team will continue to pursue additional funding opportunities to further refine their device.

"I'm confident about this technology, and I'm also interested in entrepreneurship experiences and funds," said Jin. "I think PulseFlex is going to be a great part of my near future work."

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