O’Brien Team Wins NIH Award to Advance Maternal Health Devices – The Source

Christine O’Brien, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, and her team have received a $20,000 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Technology for Maternal Health Challenge.


The award is the first step in the challenge that will ultimately award $8 million in total prizes to inventors who develop home-based and nurturing maternal diagnostic devices, wearables or other technologies designed to reduce maternal complications and death in those living where maternity care is limited. The program seeks technologies intended to be used by the postpartum individual, caregivers, or health care providers in the first year after birth. In the first round of the challenge, 15 inventor teams won $20,000 each. In the tiered competition, up to six teams of inventors will ultimately advance and, if selected as finalists, will collectively receive more than $850,000 each.

The team has developed a light-based, wrist-worn device designed to monitor and detect severe bleeding or postpartum bleeding, which can happen in the minutes, hours or days after birth. Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of preventable maternal death worldwide and accounts for about 10% of preventable maternal deaths in the United States.

O’Brien and her team have co-founded a startup company, Armor Medical Inc., to further develop and commercialize the device. The university’s Office of Technology Management has applied for a patent on the technology.

In July, O’Brien and her team were recognized as Honorable Mention Awardees in another competition, the National Institutes of Health Technology Accelerator Challenge (NTAC) for Maternal Health.

With support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, O’Brien is developing translational optical technologies that can improve women’s health care. Her lab develops optical tools that tackle important challenges spanning maternal health, reproductive cancers, and women’s global health, using optical spectroscopy, optical imaging, and simulation techniques that translate to impacting patient care.

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