Northwestern & Vanderbilt Researchers Collaborate on First “Star Trek” Device


Star Trek DeForest Kelley  Credit:Paramount TV/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Bionic Healthcare’s Pythia Team is a highly qualified interdisciplinary team comprised of biomedical and software engineers, physicians, management and marketing professionals with academic, professional and business expertise to develop and market a modular smart consumer healthcare platform.

The platform is currently being configured and tested to compete in Qualcomm’s Tricorder XPRIZE Grand Challenge to diagnose critical health conditions and provide patients access to personal health metrics. Pythia’s team leader and CEO of Bionic Healthcare Inc., Georgios Bertos, Ph.D, MBA, has developed innovative medical devices and has a proven track record of utilizing strategic thinking, business insight and hands-on technical experience to generate visionary competitive products. Georgios has established Pythia’s Tricorder XPRIZE engineering team, which is a collaboration of three major academic R&D laboratories and Bionic Healthcare Inc.

Partner institutions include:

(1) Image and Video Processing Laboratory (IVPL), Northwestern University and (2) Northwestern University Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (NUANCE) in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (3) Vanderbilt Smart Healthcare Device Innovation Group.

The integration of devices into the healthcare platform is guided by a highly qualified team of physicians with expertise in internal medicine, critical care, anesthesiology, cardiology and surgery. MOSFET-embedded Micro cantilever based Integrated sensor technology for real-time detection of analytes under physiological conditions, which is an integral part of this handheld device development for medical diagnostics and personalized medicine, was developed by Gajendra Shekhawat and Vinayak Dravid of Northwestern University.

In the not too distant future, patients will be able to diagnose and predict conditions using a “tricorder” device, not unlike what Gene Rodenberry envisioned in his Star Trek series. More than 300 international teams set out last year to compete for the $10 million prize and on May 16, 2014 it was announced that there were now only 21 teams left in the competition. Team finalists will be announced in the next phase at the IEEE International Conference (EMBC’14) taking place in Chicago in August 2014.

The $10 million top prize will be awarded to the team that develops a mobile platform that most accurately diagnoses a set of 15 diseases across 30 consumers in three days. Teams must also deliver this information in a way that provides a compelling consumer experience while capturing real time, critical health metrics such as blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature. The winning solutions will enable consumers in any location to quickly and effectively assess health conditions, determine if they need professional help and answer the question, “What do I do next?” when it comes to their health.

Watch the video:

According to Dr. Bertos, “The Tricorder idea for us is a dream concept that can save many lives. A product like this has not been developed in the healthcare industry in the past, due to certain constraints including liability issues. Companies are concerned about their device making a misdiagnosis. At the same time, many more lives are at risk due to the non-existence of a computer entity that can help doctors during the diagnosis process and, which, in cooperation with big data and predictive analytics, will transform the healthcare system into a more patient-centric model. We think there is a “golden section” between liability and early diagnosis. When we learned about the competition, we just knew we had to dive in and participate – it is the right direction for the future of medicine and certainly the deadlines are pushing us to work harder.”