Inventive duo finalists in U.S. Patent Office-sponsored competition

contact: Paula M. Davis
| WMU News
Photo of Stephen John and Joseph Barnett with their invention, NeoVent.

From left: Stephen John and Joseph Barnett

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two already highly honored student inventors have earned yet another prestigious accolade for their life-saving medical device developed at Western Michigan University. Joseph Barnett and Stephen John are finalists in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame sponsored by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the AbbVie Foundation.

Barnett and John's invention, NeoVent, is a respiratory support mechanism designed to treat critically ill infants, particularly those who live in developing nations. NeoVent converts a low-tech respiratory device into one that provides the additional benefit of a ventilator, but at much less cost. The invention could help thousands of babies in underdeveloped parts of the world.

About the competition

Established in 1990, the Collegiate Inventors Competition encourages innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity by recognizing and rewarding undergraduate and graduate students for breakthrough inventions.

"Each year, these emerging innovators transform their ideas into solutions for real world problems," says Michelle K. Lee, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office—USPTO. "They are an inspiration to those of us committed to promoting innovation and the value of intellectual property."

The top undergraduate winner will receive $12,500, and the top graduate winner will receive $15,000. Second- and third-place winners also will be recognized with cash and prizes.

In the competition's undergraduate category, Barnett and John are among six other finalists from an esteemed collection of institutions—Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Lehigh and Penn State universities, as well as the University of Virginia. There also are seven graduate finalists from some of the aforementioned universities, in addition to Northwestern, Stanford, Yale, the University of California, Berkley and the University of Pennsylvania.

On Nov. 16, Barnett, John and the other competition finalists will travel to Alexandria, Virginia, to present their inventions to a panel of final round judges comprised of the most influential inventors and invention experts in the United States—National Hall of Fame Inductees, USPTO experts and scientists from AbbVie, a leader in the health care sector.

The next day, winners will be announced at an awards ceremony hosted by Mo Rocca, CBS Sunday Morning correspondent and host of The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation. Leading up to the ceremony, finalists will be showcasing their inventions and interacting with thousands of USPTO patent and trademark examiners, sponsors, media and the public at the Collegiate Inventors Competition Expo.

The latest of several accolades

In addition to this latest honor, Barnett and John have a long list of awards for NeoVent. Their invention recently advanced to the top 20 of student inventions worldwide in the 2015 James Dyson Award, after being named U.S. national winner in that competition earlier this year. The international student or student team who wins the Dyson award will receive $45,000 and $7,500 for their university department.

NeoVent also was the first-place, $10,000 prize winner in the Biomedical Engineering Society's competition for undergraduate biomedical and bioengineering students. And the invention had earlier garnered the $10,000 "Cure It" prize in the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize as well as the Brian Patrick Thomas Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, a WMU accolade that also carried a $10,000 cash prize.

Meanwhile, Barnett is completing his senior year as a biomedical sciences major at WMU. This week, he travels to Beijing as part of a Grand Challenges in Global Health event hosted by the Gates Foundation, China's Ministry of Sciences and Technology, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other organizations. John, who graduated from WMU in May, is in his first year at the University of Michigan Medical School. Both students plan careers as physicians and medical-device developers.

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