Bold students invent wearable EpiPen for friend

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An undergraduate class project could be medicine's next big thing. Five students at Rice University created an EpiPen that you can wear on your wrist. This way, the medicine is always accessible for people with allergies.

When Albert Han began studying engineering at Rice University in Houston, he met a new group of friends. They clicked instantly.

"As we kind of got to know each other better and worked with each other more, we were able to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses," Han said.

So, when one of the friends, Justin Tang, explained that he has a severe peanut allergy and that it's bulky to carry an EpiPen everywhere, these friends put their mind to the task.

"I was like, OK that's bold and ambitious, and the scope of that project is pretty large," Dr. Deirdre Hunter said.

The idea was to create an injection device so portable that it could fit in a watch.

For weeks, they worked on the design, creating a prototype that could fold in three pieces. And when it finally came down to put it all together, EpiWear was born.

"That was a very exciting moment for us, because I guess coming from scratch, we didn't actually expect anything to work, honestly," Han said.

According to a 2018 survey published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, even though 89% of patients fill their prescriptions, only 44% said they actually carry epinephrine on them.

"Those first two moments of having an allergic reaction are like the most vital and critical," Hunter said.

Han hopes their device will change that statistic, helping thousands of people and one close friend.

The students plan to finalize their design and then apply for Food and Drug Administration approval.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: BOLD STUDENTS INVENT WEARABLE EPIPEN FOR FRIEND!
REPORT: MB #4604

BACKGROUND: The most severe allergic reaction to peanuts is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body response to an allergen. Symptoms include impaired breathing, swelling in the throat, a sudden drop in blood pressure, pale skin or blue lips, fainting and dizziness. Unless treated immediately with epinephrine (adrenaline), typically administered in an auto-injector, anaphylaxis can be fatal. To avoid the risk of anaphylactic shock, people with a peanut allergy must be very careful about what they eat. Peanuts and peanut products are commonly found in candies, cereals and baked goods, such as cookies, cakes and pies. (Source: https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/peanut-allergy)

DANGERS: Issues with cost or lack of training mean that more than half of U.S. adults at risk of a severe allergic reaction didn't use a lifesaving EpiPen or other epinephrine auto-injector during a recent attack. That's the finding from a new study of more than 900 adults with potentially life-threatening allergies. The researchers said 52 percent didn't use their prescribed auto-injectors in an allergic reaction emergency. Another 21 percent said they didn't know how to use their auto-injector, he noted. About half the survey participants said an auto-injector was accessible (within 5 minutes) all of the time, 44 percent said they carried at least one all of the time, while less than 25 percent said they routinely carried more than one. Anyone who's been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector should always have it with them and should always carry two in case a severe allergic reaction recurs, according to the ACAAI, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (Source: https://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20180621/many-with-severe-allergies-dont-carry-an-epipen#1)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Students at Rice University are developing an alternative to the EpiPen, one that is wearable (and fashionable) to increase the likelihood that potential users bring the device with them wherever they may go. Called EpiWear, the trifold device has a spring-activated injection system that is designed to deliver the same amount of epinephrine (0.3 milliliters) as currently available devices. Deirdre Hunter, PhD, Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University Houston said, "When the students brought their project to me, I kind of smirked because I have an epinephrine pen that I rarely carry on my person. So I think the idea that you're transforming the way we think about these medical lifesaving devices and how we can carry them on us will really impact a lot of people. And a lot of people in really vulnerable situations." (Source: https://www.medtechintelligence.com/news_article/students-develop-foldable-epinephrine-delivery-device-to-replace-epipen/ & Deirdre Hunter, PhD)