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Westminster marketing student, Chris Ciancone, has always dreamed of climbing Mount Kilmanjaro, but asthma has kept the 24 year old from seriously considering the nearly 20,000-foot ascent—until now. Ciancone and his teammates from the University of Utah recently took top honors in the University of Utah’s Bench to Bedside Medical Device Competition winning the grand prize for “Best Overall Device,” as well as “Best Business.” The team designed a novel inhaler device, called LIYEN, that improves delivery of albuterol to the lungs of asthma patients.
Ciancone conceived of the life-saving idea while hospitalized for sinus surgery. As an asthmatic, Ciancone never goes anywhere without an inhaler.
“It was always so embarrassing to pull out my inhaler when I was kid,” recalled Ciancone. “I want asthmatics to have something that empowers them to accomplish their goals, not hide.”
Ciancone teamed up with three engineering students from the University of Utah, Jamal Abdinor, Camilo Corredor, and Jackson Murphy, to create a prototype of the LIYEN inhaler. LIYEN is an acronym for the “last inhaler you’ll ever need.” LIYEN is designed for 70-90 percent lung deposition of Albuterol compared to the current pMDI inhaler that has only 20 percent lung deposition.
“Eight million asthma patients in the U.S. use a standard inhaler and many don’t even get 20 percent of the medicine because they mess up the hand-breath coordination required to deliver it,” said Ciancone. “The LIYEN’s patent pending technology eliminates most user error.”
Ciancone’s team competed against 13 other teams during the 2012 Bench to Bedside Medical Device Competition hosted by the Technology Venture Development at the University of Utah. Students from the U of U’s medical school, college of engineering and school of business participated in the competition that focuses on teaching bioengineering and business to learn to work together. Ciancone combined his business model, market research, and presentation skills with the science knowledge of his teammates to create the competition’s winning device.
“This is a key example of how important it is to add business skills into the equation of commercializing any innovative product,” said Linda Muir, director of the Institute for New Enterprise at Westminster. “We’re so proud to support and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of students like Chris.”
Ciancone will use the entrepreneurial skills he gained at Westminster to make LIYEN commercially available to asthma patients. The Technology Venture Development Office at the University of Utah will provide resources to Ciancone’s team to help facilitate intellectual property rights and licensing options for the new medical device.
“Chris has been involved in the Bench to Bedside competition both years, and has really put in a lot of effort to making his team successful,” added Matt Sorensen, Bench to Bedside president. “I’m excited to see what comes from his project.”
Ciancone, who enjoys rock climbing, plans to focus his career on biomedical development and innovative outdoor products for asthmatics to use at high altitudes. With the LIYEN inhaler, Ciancone is one step closer to reaching the top of Kilimanjaro.