Team developing ulcer prevention

A team from University of Washington Bothell that’s developing a medical sensor to measure ulcer-causing bacteria in the stomach competed at the first Health Innovation Challenge held by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington.

Students Michael Yacoub and Megan Hewitt are developing an instrument called OmniBot.

“This has been our research for some time now, and this is part of the process for creating a medical device,” said Yacoub, who was born in Egypt and grew up in Edmonds. The biochemistry major is graduating this year and applying for medical school.

Hewitt is a mechanical engineering major from Oak Harbor who expects to graduate in June 2017.

The OmniBot is a tethered capsule endoscope designed to measure gastric gas and detect pockets of H. pylori bacteria. These bacteria are common, but large amounts may cause ulcers in the stomach lining.

The device was developed as part of her undergraduate research at UW Bothell, Hewitt said. The capsule containing a camera and gas sensor would be swallowed and controlled by computer. It would be pulled out by its tether, making for a comparatively simple outpatient screening procedure.

H. pylori can be treated with antibiotics.

The competition challenged interdisciplinary student teams to work on new products or services to help people live healthier lives.

Of the 34 teams that applied, only 18 were chosen to make a pitch March 3 before a judging panel of more than 40 healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs, said Emily Willeman with the center.

The OmniBot team was one of only two teams from outside the University of Washington campus in Seattle. The other was from Washington State University in Pullman.

The Health Innovation Challenge awarded $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 prizes to help the winners develop their projects. The challenge is a new addition to the Buerk Center’s two other long-running innovation competitions: The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge and the UW Business Plan Competition.