Student and Alumnus of WMU Design Low Cost Respiratory Device for Infants

Joseph Barnett, a senior at Western Michigan University, and Stephan John, an alumnus of WMU, were recently recognized for their invention of a respiratory device which was developed to treat infants who are critically ill.

The NeoVent, earned the two gentlemen a spot among the other winners of the Lemelson-MIAT National Collegiate Student Prize Competition and earned them a $10,000 prize. Twenty-eight universities and colleges participated in the competition and teams were awarded a total of $65,000. The object of the competition is for students to improve transportation, consumer devices, healthcare, food and agriculture or tools through their inventions.

The duo came up with the idea for the NeoVent after John spoke with an official from Respiratory Therapists Without Borders who explained the demand for a low-cost instrument to help premature babies by preventing their lungs from collapsing due to respiratory issues. The official told John that many hospitals they service in developing countries could not afford the current equipment available.

John and Barnett both spent time volunteering in countries that have poor medical resources. John returns to his native country of Nepal in summers as a volunteer at the United Mission Hospital and Barnett has traveled to volunteer to work with students in Honduras six different times.

Barnett says that their time in these countries showed them the importance of simple, cost-effective medical devices. They began collaboration over their design 18 months ago in John’s basement and completed it on the campus of WMU.

The device will be priced at around $25 which is a huge savings from the cost of a ventilator. John and Barnett say they are grateful for the support from WMU and the community. “Hopefully this brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal of saving neonatal lives,” he says.

John and Barnett majored in biomedical sciences and both plan on continuing onto medical school.

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