Back in 2012, Kevin Cedrone SM ’10, PhD ’13 and Dr. Santorino Data, a pediatrician in Uganda, participated in a Massachusetts General Hospital hackathon, where they learned that many babies were dying unnecessarily due to breathing problems shortly after birth.
In fact, each year about 1.8 million newborn babies die the day they are born because they have trouble breathing—mostly in low- and middle-income countries—according to a 2013 study conducted by doctors for BMC Public Health, a public health journal.
At the time, Cedrone was a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering with a background in automotive engineering. Upon learning about these newborn respiratory challenges, he realized he had recently spotted some sensors in the trash that could work for the project.
He returned to his lab, sifted through the spare parts, and created a working prototype that he presented to the hackathon judges within 24 hours.
“I spotted an analogy between car sensors and ones that could track a baby’s breathing patterns,” says Cedrone. “There was a gap in medical training and practice, and I thought this device could potentially bridge the two.”
Called the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR), the sensor almost looks like a teched-out asthma inhaler. It monitors individuals as they administer breathing to a distressed newborn, identifying common ventilation problems, and giving objective feedback in real time.
Since winning first prize at the hackathon, Cedrone and his team—which includes Craig Mielcarz ’03, Jim Wright, Dr. Data, and Dr. Kristian Olson of Massachusetts General Hospital—have won the IDEAS Global Challenge, MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship, and were given a $250,000 grant from the Saving Lives at Birth partnership. They began a startup called EB Innovations LLC in Somerville.
Cedrone, while presenting the AIR at the 2015 Innovation Tank at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards, cited a study that indicated the AIR device could reduce infant ventilation problems by 26 to 48 percent.
He says they’ve developed a next generation of the AIR, and they have over 100 models made. The team is conducting trials in Boston and Uganda to test the effectiveness of the device.
Transitioning to working full-time as the company’s CEO after finishing a postdoc has allowed him grow as a professional, while driving his company forward.
“Starting EB Innovations has challenged me to wear every hat,” says Cedrone. “I got thrown into business, tech development, and accounting—it was a lot of education in a short amount of time.”
In the future, Cedrone says he “wants the device to reduce infant mortality by getting it to those whom it can help.” He is open to either partnering with hospitals or institutions, or to seeking funds that will allow him to commercialize the AIR himself.
Beginning in early 2017, Cedrone envisions selling each unit at cost in developing countries and whatever the market will bear in the U.S. After that, the AIR device could be adapted from newborns for use with children, adults and intubated patients as well.
With a vision and a product to boot, Cedrone says he’s happy with the progress of EB Innovations, and his decision to embark on a startup.
“At MIT, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and startups,” Cedrone says. “I had the resources available to make the leap after I finished my education, and I was able to take the company to the next level. It’s a rewarding experience and it’s something everyone can and should do.”
Cedrone will be speaking at “Careers for the Social Good” at the MIT Career Hack. Career Hack is a collaborative event with the Fall Career Fair designed to engage freshmen, sophomores, and all students exploring their career interests and potential career paths. Students are invited to take part in sessions in addition to attending the fair to discover the connection between their leadership experiences, service work, and interests. Come learn about exciting exploratory opportunities, hear from alumni in careers of service, find out how to tell your story, and more.