Innovation doesn't have to involve complicated products or processes. But it often requires approaching a problem differently than others might.
That's just what Dr. Irina Buhimschi did back in 2008. Then an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Buhimschi was all too familiar with the challenges of diagnosing and treating preeclampsia -- a disorder of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and a large amount of protein in the urine and the leading cause of prenatal death for mothers and babies worldwide.
While the condition can be diagnosed and treated relatively early in developed countries, it is much more difficult to address in developing countries where lack of regular prenatal care means preeclampsia can often result in severe complications and even death.
Recognizing this, Dr. Buhimschi developed a way to identify patients with preeclampsia using a simple dye-on-paper method. Other researchers had focused on more complicated and costly laboratory-based diagnostic tests. But this surprisingly simple approach proved very effective.
Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) filed a patent application on this discovery. But it was not until Dr. Buhimschi connected with executive MBA student Wendy Davis that a new startup company – Gestvision – was formed to further advance the technology. Based on Dr. Buhimschi’s simple but innovative idea and with an exclusive license from OCR, the company developed a rapid, affordable urine test that detects misfolded proteins associated with preeclampsia.
These test kits are now being used in clinical studies around the world, while GestVision works on a process to produce them at scale. They are helping doctors better diagnose and manage preeclampsia, reduce the risk of related complications and save lives. That’s why they were recently recognized by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with a 2016 Patents for Humanity Award.
"We’ve seen the profound impact that good ideas—patented and marketed—can have on human beings, transcending national borders and transforming lives around the world,”
says Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Michelle K. Lee.
Creators of the Patents for Humanity program hope that showcasing the inspiring work of inventors – and underscoring how patents power and protect new ideas – will inspire others to approach the world’s challenges in new and innovative ways.