Students Engage to Solve Health Challenge

Emily and Katherine pose next to their product display at the Health Innovation Challenge.
Emily Willard (left) and Katherine Brandenstein created the sterilized injection project, Engage.

Two Washington State University bioengineering students won first place and $10,000 in the inaugural, regional Health Innovation Challenge (HIC) at the University of Washington on March 3. They were the only non-UW affiliated entrepreneurs among the 18 finalist teams that pitched ideas to more than 100 judges from business and health science professions.

Emily Willard of Everett, Wash., and Katherine Brandenstein of Woodinville, Wash., are cofounders of Engage and won with the prototype for their product SafeShot. It is a lid that attaches to a multi-use medicine injection vial to sterilize the needle each time it enters the vial.

In the developing world, needle reuse is not uncommon. SafeShot’s sterilizing liquid stops the spread of contaminates such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

“This award will help us do further research on how SafeShot can become a standard in the vaccine market,” said Willard.

“This is a great example of how our WSU engineering students are learning real-world problem solving skills through programs like the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute,” said Howard Davis, director of the institute and a professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. “We’re proud to see these students address some of our most critical, real-world health challenges.”

Willard and Brandenstein are part of a senior design project to build a product and then build a startup company around that product.

“Emily, Katherine, and their startup are a great example of the interconnectivity of entrepreneurship endeavors that we strive for at WSU,” said Marie Mayes, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and a clinical assistant professor at WSU.

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