Two teams led by Northwestern faculty will celebrate the 2022 Chicago Innovation Awards | So Good News


Two of Chicago’s most notable innovations of the year were based on Northwestern University research, according to Chicago Innovation, which honored Illinois Wastewater Control System and Epicore Biosystems Nov. 16 at the 21st annual Chicago Innovation Awards.

One, a collaboration with municipalities to monitor wastewater for COVID-19, and another, a healthcare startup that created a wearable sweat-monitoring patch to provide insight into personal hydration, stress and metabolic health, were among 20 high-impact inventions among the winners. From 365 nominees, Chicago’s most innovative products and services for organizations large and small.

“Northwestern is known for its collaborative research strengths, particularly at the intersection of disciplines, which is often the case in our university research institutes and centers, such as the Water Research Center,” said Milan Mrksic, vice president for research. “This team-oriented approach leads to successful innovation partnerships with other local and regional institutions, enabling our research teams to address pressing social issues and to do so with speed and agility.”

Illinois Wastewater Monitoring System

Award-winning, the Illinois Wastewater Surveillance System is a creative solution for monitoring COVID-19 resulting from an interdisciplinary research effort led by Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and Argonne National Laboratory.

In collaboration with the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health and Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), researchers will test and analyze wastewater from sources around Chicago and Illinois to detect the presence of COVID-19 and prevent the spread of the disease. Northwestern is the data analysis lead for this program.

“Our major breakthrough was the rapid development of methods to measure SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and track the spread of COVID-19 variants,” said Northwestern professor Aaron Packman. “City and state health departments have been involved in our research from the beginning, and we’ve created an entire program to deliver actionable information to protect public health in Chicago and Illinois.”

Pacman, who led the Northwestern team, is director of the Water Research Center, leader of the Smart Great Lakes Initiative, and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering.

Northwestern’s core data analysis team for Illinois’ wastewater monitoring system includes Katelyn Lisman and Niall Mangan, professors of engineering sciences and applied mathematics; David Morton, chair and professor of industrial engineering and management; together with Ph.D. students Maria Warnes and Guy Chen.

In 2021, a Chicago-area research team became one of the first in the country to reliably analyze raw sewage samples for evidence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, providing real-time information to help the Chicago and Illinois health departments. during the pandemic.

The team will also test wastewater samples for influenza A and B for the state.

Infected people shed the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their urine and feces, even without symptoms, making sewers and sewage treatment plants ideal places to look for telltale signs of the disease.

In Chicago, DPI partnered with Current — another 2022 Chicago Innovation Award winner with advisory support from Northwest — to sample neighborhoods to get a local snapshot of COVID-19 trends and track potential new options at O’Hare International Airport. comes from the state.

The wastewater network currently includes more than 80 monitoring sites covering more than two-thirds of Illinois’ population.

Epicore Biosystems

Epicore Biosystems is a healthcare startup that has created the first sweat-sensing wearable platform to deliver personalized hydration, stress and metabolic insights to athletes, industrial workers and consumers. Epicore Biosystems’ Gx Sweat Patch and Gx App, developed in partnership with Gatorade, received a Collaboration Award at the Chicago Innovation Awards.

The organization was founded as a spin-off company from the Querrey Simpson Bioelectronics Institute and the John Rogers Laboratory at Northwestern.

Rogers, the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurological Surgery and Director of the Querrey Simpson Institute, Northwestern Trustee Kimberly K. , ’23 P).

Microfluidic technology captures tiny droplets of sweat directly from the pores, which can then be analyzed in real time and used to monitor an athlete’s performance by measuring how much fluid and electrolytes are lost. In 2021, Epicore Biosystems and Gatorade launched the Gx Sweat Patch and Gx App, which is now available in retail stores and through e-commerce channels.

“It is an honor to be selected for the Chicago Innovation Collaboration Award this year among such an illustrious group of entries,” said Dr. Roozbeh Ghaffari, CEO and Founder, Epicore Biosystems. “This recognition reflects the tireless efforts of our multidisciplinary team in taking the Gx Sweat Patch and app from concept to full-scale launch and the creation of a new product category.”

Ghaffari is the director of translational research at Northwestern and an associate professor of biomedical engineering at McCormick. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to soft bioelectronics, nanoscale systems, and neuroscience.

Partnering with leading Fortune 500 companies, the Department of Defense and research hospitals, Epicore Biosystems has created its wearables to capture personalized information about hydration and health management with its microfluidic wearables.

In March 2022, Ghaffari and team closed a $10 million investment round to help accelerate the commercial scale of their microfluidic biosensors and data cloud platform. An industrial version of their sweat-sensing product, called Connected Hydration, is currently undergoing clinical trials and is intended for enterprise customers to address the hydration and nutrition needs of industrial workers in extreme working conditions.

Sweat is a rich source of largely untapped biomarker data consisting of solutes, metabolites, hormones, proteins, trace elements, and exogenous agents—each of which can provide insights to clinicians and be analyzed to deliver data to consumers. From its origins as a McCormick spinout, Epicore Biomarkers has continued to advance its wearable microfluidic technology and products in the ever-expanding digital health sector.

Editor’s note: Rogers and Ghaffari have financial interests in Epicore Biosystems. Northwestern University also has financial interests (equity, royalties) in Epicore Biosystems.


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