Courtesy of CUBMD

Influx is a device to deliver controlled drug dosages.

March 6, 2024

Cornell University Biomedical Device Team Develops Product to Treat Opioid Withdrawal

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The Cornell University Biomedical Device team is developing a novel product intended to treat patients undergoing opioid withdrawal for its Spring 2024 project. The device is an addition to the team’s collection of products dedicated to benefiting health and well-being.

Student project teams, supported by the College of Engineering, offer these opportunities for students of all majors to get involved in pre-professional endeavors to grow as learners and make positive real-world change. CUBMD, a project team that started in 2018, utilizes engineering, business, marketing and medical know-how to advance the healthcare industry.

CUBMD is currently developing Influx, a device to deliver controlled drug dosages for those suffering opioid withdrawal.

With its three subteams of outreach, business and product development, CUBMD begins its projects each fall by identifying a solvable issue in current healthcare hardware. 

“We research [devices and their] existing deficiencies, [which] may be something like [the device is] not very cost-effective or it’s not doing its intended job as well as it could be,” team lead Ashmitha Sivakumar ’24 said.

After isolating a problem to solve, the team works together through multiple rounds of brainstorming and idea pitches until only one idea remains.

This year the team settled on Influx, an infusion pump that plans to assist those suffering from opioid withdrawals by delivering controlled doses of naltrexone.

During the fall semester, the team worked on the proof of concept for Influx. The team first consulted doctors on the best drug to treat substance use disorder, ultimately deciding on naltrexone, an FDA-approved medication that comes in pill or injectable form intended to reduce drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

“[Influx is] supposed to be a treatment option for those who might suffer from substance use disorder,” Sivakumar said.

The students then researched existing devices within the infusion pump market, discovering Omnipod, a wearable insulin-delivery device. Omnipod functions by using a thermal wire that, once heated up, turns gears that push a plunger into the user’s arm to deliver insulin.

Sivakumar explained that Omnipod’s mechanics were particularly helpful for CUBMD’s product developers. The team obtained a few Omnipods to better understand the device’s inner workings before making its own to improve upon this model. 

“Because there’s already an existing device that does this controlled drug delivery, we thought, what better way [to approach product development] than to incorporate certain aspects of [the Omnipod] design in our model and reverse engineer some of it?” Sivakumar said. 

The team also created a mobile application that connects Influx to a mobile device. The application allows patients to communicate with doctors about how to utilize their Influx and how much naltrexone is necessary to suppress their drug cravings. CUBMD members with experience in medical fields compared the app to existing tools, confirming that it matched existing standards for virtual medical applications. 

“At this point, we’re kind of in between the researching and developing phase,” Sivakumar said. “We hope we’re designing a device that is helpful, but truly, I think that beyond competitions, [it is] the real people who are the real judges and the actual users of the device.”

Despite being in its early stages, the team has already submitted Influx to competitions at the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University. CUBMD members plan to fully demonstrate and celebrate their finished work at their annual showcase in mid-April.

Beyond Influx, CUBMD has created a variety of devices that address issues ranging from bone fractures to dental disorders to multiple sclerosis. The team’s Spring 2023 project — a pulse oximeter called MelanOxi that can be used on a variety of skin tones — was successfully patented.

CUBMD altogether aims to highlight problems in current biomedical devices and use innovative and advanced engineering techniques to construct solutions, according to Sivakumar. Along with designing products and entering competitions, the team takes a human-centered approach to ensure their device will help real patients and users.

“We are really dedicated to producing biomedical devices that are able to further advance healthcare,” Sivakumar said.

Ava Malkin can be reached at [email protected].