Indian American among 3 UPenn students to receive President’s Innovation Prize

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Brandon Kao, Rui Jing Jiang and Adarsh Battu (Courtesy: University of Pennsylvania)

Indian American Adarsh Battu, of the University Of Pennsylvania Wharton School Of Business has received the President’s Innovation Prize, along with Rui Jing, of Wharton and Brandon Kao of the engineering school.

According to a University of Pennsylvania press release, they will use the $100,000 plus another $50,000 to further develop VisiPlate and continue their work to battle blindness.

Last year, the trio won the Y-Prize for developing Visiplate, a nanoscale ocular implant that shunts away excess fluid in the eye.

During the Y-Prize contest, the team found themselves most inspired by nanoscale-thin sheets developed in the lab of Igor Bargatin, the class of 1965 term assistant professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics.

The 100-nanometer-thin sheets—thousands of times thinner than aluminum foil—have a corrugated hexagonal structure that allows them to maintain their shape under physical stress, and are the only films of this thickness that can be manually handled, the press release said.

“Just being at Penn, which has so much expertise in so many different disciplines, means that we’re able to reach out to experts in engineering, medicine, and health care policy. We’re getting guidance from leaders in the field. One of the most important things I learned was about the human interaction that happens when you’re doing a startup,” Battu is quoted saying in a press release. “I’ve learned from my teammates, but also all the people we’ve interacted with at Penn and outside Penn. Ultimately, what really has moved us forward is these relationships that we’ve built with people who have become our supporters.”

The students came up with Visiplate, a nanoscale ocular implant for the treatment of open angle glaucoma, a condition in which fluid builds up in the eye, putting damaging pressure on the optic nerve and often leading to blindness and their device is 10,000 times thinner than existing last-line-of-defense implants for glaucoma.

The students will also be able to take advantage of dedicated co-working space at the Pennovation Center, as well as continued mentorship from the Penn Center for Innovation.

Their next step is to continue building prototypes, while doing further preclinical tests and getting an FDA approval so that they can take their device to market.

The President’s Innovation Prize, which was founded by university president Amy Gutmann in 2016, intends to help Penn students design and undertake innovative, commercial ventures that make a positive difference in the world.

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