The Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology (CINT) at Washington University

CINT Invention Sessions
Year 3: Semesters 5 and 6

The Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology (CINT) at Washington University creates a collaborative environment to develop novel neuro-medical technologies; educates staff and students in the areas of idea generation, valuation, development and application; and creates a connection between academia and industry. 

One of its primary activities is holding monthly Invention sessions with different groups of Engineers and Physicians during the academic year.  Each inventions session has a theme (spine, vascular, functional neurosurgery, etc.) and the appropriate physicians and engineers that have interest/expertise in that area get together for ~ 2 hour brainstorming session. 

It begins with the engineers presenting the latest new technology they have come across and then the physicians discuss their most pressing issues and neurological problems.  Inevitably the physicians come up with problems that could be addressed by the new technology and the engineers suggest solutions to the physicians’ issues.  The back and forth between a group of 6-8 faculty is ideal for ideation. 

We are expanding these Invention Sessions by inviting individual TNNT trainees to the various Invention Sessions.  The TNNT trainee is treated as an equal – just another WashU employee in the room that will share equally in intellectual property with the other faculty.  Although the real benefit for the trainee is the interaction with physicians and industry personnel during the ideation process which supports their professional development and is an added benefit over normal training.

CINT Summer Innovation Fellowship
Year 3: Summer 3

A core component of the technical output of the CINT involves the Innovation Fellowship.  The fellowship is a unique team-oriented effort that involves both faculty and trainees from the departments of neurosurgery and engineering.  It serves the dual role of creating real world prototypes that can validate the feasibility of a concept, and also provides an experience of intense cross disciplinary interaction that can educate all the participants on the necessary ingredients required for successful ideation and technical translation. 

 An “Innovation Fellowship Team” consists of a neurosurgical faculty, an engineering faculty, a neurosurgical resident, a TNNT trainee and three undergraduate engineering students.  Also, an engineer from the industry sponsor is sometimes included. The team then turns that concept into a working prototype. This involves three milestone steps.

  • The first stage involves establishing the clinical and medical specifications for the device. 
  • The second stage involves creating the engineering design and draft of the device.
  • The third stage involves creation of a working physical prototype. 

A neurosurgical faculty and an engineering faculty oversee each stage.  This is a very intense process spanning the spring and summer.  

Engineering students and neurosurgery residents work together closely to effectively design and implement a prototype that will work and meets the specifications of the faculty. The fellowship output is then presented to the industry sponsor (e.g. Stryker Corp). 

The TNNT graduate student will interact with the students in a similar fashion to the Neurosurgery Resident.  They will be the first line of help to the three undergraduate students working on the project.  They will spend typically 4-6 hours a week interacting with the team and helping them with their design. 

The two faculty mentors typically spend an average of an hour per week advising and helping the team.  The value for the CINT trainee is interaction with clinical residents and practice mentoring a team of undergraduate engineers in a design project.