Innovator Spotlight on OCTRI Pilot Awardee

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In 2020, the Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Institute (OCTRI) awarded Jessica Grant, an OHSU speech therapist, and David Sheridan, MD, an OCTRI Scholar and OHSU associate professor of emergency medicine, a Biomedical Innovation Program award for their device called the Koala Kushion. This week, the duo was interviewed for OHSU's Innovator Spotlight series. Read more about their progress below.

Koala Kushion: Semi-upright prone infant feeding pillow to improve reflux

Please tell us about the genesis of your project.
So many babies have feeding difficulties and often significant reflux is a factor. Correct positioning is one of the easiest ways to ensure babies are eating safely, and frequently improves the symptoms of reflux, as well. In my practice as an infant feeding specialist in the NICU, as well as personal experience with my daughter, I know first-hand the stress of feeding a baby with reflux or other feeding difficulties. We’ve always known that babies with reflux calm easier when they are upright on a parent’s chest. Most of these infants also breastfeed better in this position as well, so we started feeding some of these babies in an elevated, prone position. While effective, we encountered a problem: With only one provider managing several different tasks simultaneously – including correctly positioning a prone infant while also holding a bottle – the feeding position was unstable and awkward. That’s when I started figuring out how to provide a safe and stable positioner to feed infants ... and the Koala Kushion was born! I connected with clinician and researcher, David Sheridan in Emergency Medicine, and we’ve collaborated on the project ever since. We have now designed it to be used on a person’s lap to feed their baby in a cradled position, elevated prone, or even side-lying while maintaining a specific, elevated angle.  

Who is the main customer for your product?  
This was initially designed for use with neonates in the NICU, however, as we moved along the design process and had discussions with parents it became clear that this product would be helpful for all parents with new babies!  

What surprised you most about your experience developing an early-stage technology?
How much the initial idea I had on a napkin would change before we arrived at the final product design.  

What is the status of your project now?
I have four working prototypes and a fully engineered CAD design file.  

What are your next steps?
My team and OHSU are actively looking for baby product companies to license this design or partner with us. 

What inspires you to be an inventor?
To find the pain points that we, as clinicians, deal with on an everyday basis, and fill that gap to improve patient outcomes and ease the burden of care.  

Do you have any advice for other inventors and future inventors?
Ask questions of as many people in as many different sectors as possible! Don’t be afraid to be the squeaky wheel to get your innovation going. Just because it hasn’t been thought of before doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea; people may not even realize that’s a pain point for them!  

Ms. Grant recently presented at the 2021 OHSU Innovation Showcase: Koala Kushion presentation

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 1: Train and Cultivate the Translational Science Workforce
Goal 3: Promote the Integration of Special and Underserved Populations in Translational Research Across the Human Lifespan
Goal 4: Innovate Processes to Increase the Quality and Efficiency of Translational Research, Particularly of Multisite Trials