This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase II project will develop a class of new, stable, highly responsive Electro Active Polymer (EAP) hydrogel actuator materials. Incorporating dendrimers (dendritic macromolecules) and hyper branched polymers as chemical cross-linking agents into a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based EAP hydrogel to increase cross-linking densities at low polymer concentration will introduce systematic control of physical properties and performance through structural variables provided by the dendrimer (e.g. generation; end groups; branching ratio; subunit structure). Our research objectives involve the preparation of dendrimer containing PEG hydrogels and the investigation of dendrimer mole fraction, structure, and molecular weight on the stability, strength, physical and responsive properties of the hydrogel material. The new hydrogel actuator materials will enable low cost miniature infusion pump technology. These actuators will be the pump mechanism of a disposable (low cost), small patch like, device being commercialized by Medipacs as the Mini Infuser.
The Mini Infuser is a miniature, disposable, programmable drug delivery device designed to significantly lower the cost of patient care while improving a patient's lifestyle with increased pharmacological safety, patient mobility and fewer needle sticks. Medipacs is collaborating with the University of Arizona Chemistry Department to develop the first generation commercial prototype in the Phase II project. Broad application of this technology will impact and lower the cost of healthcare not only for millions of infusion patients but also the industry providers. The projected market in the United States alone is greater than $3 billion. The impact to poorer regions though out the world is immeasurable; life-improving drug therapies such as low cost continuous insulin delivery will be enabled and become available for the first time to patients within these regions.
In the course of this NSF STTR award Medipacs Inc. and the University of Arizona teamed up to develop a smart polymer material that was low cost and easy to manufacture yet offered superior performance to existing materials. The result was a highly successful project that led to the development of new smart polymer materials. The smart polymer materials were incorporated into a never done before Medipacs polymer actuator design resulting in novel actuator technologies being successfully developed. The new actuator was in turn incorporated into the new Medipacs medical pump design and after a rigorous engineering effort the medical pump design was completed within the grant period. During the NSF STTR grant period several supplemental grants were awarded to help develop an understanding of how to molecularly engineer the new polymer material and why it provides such high performance characteristics relative to other materials. These supplements included funding for high school students and a high school teacher to gain valuable lab experience and help with a large material pH response study being conducted by Medipacs. The same study also included additional funding for undergraduate students at the University of Arizona to work on the study and complete it over a course of two years. In addition to this Jackson State University and Medipacs completed another supplement study to develop computational modeling of the polymer molecular matrix and interaction of water molecules within the polymer in an effort to start developing engineering tools to design and modify the polymer and predict the performance attributes of that design. As a result of this NSF STTR project Medipacs, Inc. is developing and will commercialize wearable and programmable disposable drug infusion pumps and patches that can address up to several billion dollars in market revenue opportunities. Medipacsâ€™ first product, the NCA™ Mini-Infuser™ Pump is designed for medical cost savings value; first by increasing nurse efficiency up to 25%, second by reducing medication errors and third by improving patient outcomes and reducing the length of stay in hospitals. Each of these represent significant cost savings to hospitals, when combined an average hospital can save over $ 2 million dollars per year. Once implemented into the US health care system the savings can amount to billions of dollars per year and keep the US at the leading edge of new medical technology.