Search Johnson



Text Size

William P. Jeffs
Johnson Space Center, Houston

RELEASE : J08-004
U. of Illinois-Chicago Team Wins First NASA Life Science Award
HOUSTON – A team of graduate students from the University of Illinois at Chicago has received the first NASA Earth/Space Life Science Innovation Award given at the 2008 Rice Business Plan Competition.

The $20,000 cash prize was announced April 5 at the 2008 Rice Business Plan Competition Awards Banquet at the Intercontinental Hotel in Houston. NASA sponsored the award in partnership with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship for this year's competition—the richest and largest business plan competition in the world.

The team received the award for its HeartSounds platform technology, which can determine heart sounds through a patch (operator independent) and wirelessly record, transmit, archive and perform diagnostic analyses. It also can follow pressures such as pulmonary artery pressure and may be adaptable to many other pressure and heart rate analyses for monitoring of health parameters. The technology could have future applications to inflight medical care systems.

"I've seen the need for this technology firsthand. As I did my rotation in the (research hospital on campus), I saw how particularly relevant it was in neonatal care, but there are many other applications that we are excited to pursue," said team member Dr. Amir Bastawrous. Nineteen executive summaries were reviewed for the award. The Space Life Sciences Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston led the evaluation for applicability to the space life science program. Judges represented both the Space Life Sciences Directorate and JSC's Technology Transfer Office.

The space life sciences criteria included elements such as relevance to the health and performance of astronauts on long-duration missions, filling a strategic need, providing Earth-based benefits and being innovative. Business criteria also were used in the team's evaluation.

“The NASA Earth/Space Life Science Innovation Award will encourage development of commercial technologies that can address the physiological, medical, environmental health and human factors challenges of spaceflight. The award will also increase the awareness of the contributions being made by the NASA Johnson Space Center to the Houston region, and to the overall success of the space program,” said Dr. Jeffrey R. Davis, director of the Space Life Sciences Directorate at JSC.

“For decades, the NASA space program has been a source of technology advances which provide benefits not only in space, but also on Earth. This award continues that tradition,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance.

Teams considered for the NASA award were required to have a business plan related to technology commercialization that has applicability to NASA's space program in the area of life sciences with some type of application on Earth. Examples include technology innovations that address bone loss and osteoporosis, cardiac problems, sleep problems, radiation effects, muscle changes and muscular atrophy, neurobehavioral and psychosocial factors, nutrition and physical fitness and neurovestibular adaptation (balance disorders).

Business plans also could address smart medical devices, transportable diagnostic devices, biomedical and environmental health technologies or human factors technologies.

For information on the Rice Business Plan Competition and Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, visit:

For information on the Space Life Sciences Directorate, visit:

For more about NASA's plans to send humans to the moon and beyond, visit:


- end -

text-only version of this release