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Professor Warren Smith Awaits Patent

Posted On : September 13th, 2011

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Professor Warren Drew Smith is patiently awaiting patent approval for a miniaturized measuring device he devised that could prove very beneficial to children with cerebral palsy.

The battery-operated fanny pack tracks the movements of youngsters, documenting the frequency of their falls. It has been used by Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, which has financed the project for three years. Shriners is seeking a licensing agreement that would protect the pack as intellectual property. Once that happens, the device could be produced and marketed by a firm and ultimately produce revenue for Sacramento State.

To hasten that process, Smith, a professor of electrical and electronic engineering, has been promoting the device at home and abroad. Last year, he presented his findings to a conference of technical engineers in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In late May, he traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, to demonstrate the device’s reliability. On Aug. 30, he was in Boston to explain how the fanny pack can be integrated in an increasingly computerized medical environment.

This fall, Shriners will use data from the fanny pack to determine the efficacy of Botox injections to relax the children’s leg muscles. The relatively new treatment has received positive responses from parents. The device will ascertain whether this anecdotal evidence is reliable. The children will wear the fanny pack at home for two weeks to get a better indication of their movements in a natural setting.

Smith’s device is unique because it monitors children’s movements; other devices concentrate on the elderly. He and colleague Anita Bagley, co-director of Shriners Motional Analysis Laboratory, believe the fanny pack will facilitate better treatment for the children. After patenting and licensing, the device will be readily available for use by clinicians. For now, its use is restricted to biomedical engineers.

A respected leader in biomedical engineering, Smith believes the fanny pack is applicable to other medical treatments. He sees military veterans with leg prosthetics as well as individuals with muscular dystrophy benefiting from the device’s data.

“The miniaturization of medical technology can lead to low-cost monitoring of people in their homes, especially in remote areas,” he says. This, he says, could curb health care costs that are spiraling out of control. Intel and General Electric have recognized as much in the Sacramento region with their recent collaboration, Care Innovations.

Telemedicine’s potential expands exponentially with the kind of engineering breakthroughs that Smith and his graduate students are pursuing in Sac State’s laboratory. The professor’s abiding belief that “we can do better” underscores the University’s mission of teaching, learning and service.

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– Alan Miller

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