Westporter develops innovative medical device
Updated 10:25 am, Thursday, October 26, 2017
WESTPORT — Clayton Andrews, like many other people, has trouble breathing through his nose. It’s a common inconvenience in his family.
“I have nasal obstruction — a bunch of people in family do, too. And I know a whole bunch of people who have tried devices or undergone surgery with mixed results,” said the 22-year-old fellow at Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s kind of insane how used people get to not being able to breathe through the nose and how much of a difference it makes,” added Andrews, a Westport resident.
Andrews used his personal and family connection with nasal obstruction, in part, as inspiration for a senior design project in which allowing better nasal breathing in a comfortable, effective manner was the chief priority.
“We partnered with physicians and surgeons at the hospital. They pitched us the problems they experience in clinics everyday. The physician that we partnered with, Dr. Patrick Byrne, sees people in his practice everyday coming in struggling with restrictive nasal breathing,”Andrews explained. “It affects somewhere around 13 percent of the population.”
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Byrne, the director of the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins, said he has many patients with nasal problems who are looking for options more effective than surgery — which can increase symptoms over time — and external devices — which are highly noticeable and suboptimal in terms of freeing passageways.
“We know clinically that applying outward pressure from inside of the nose is likely to be more effective than pulling the skin from the outside. I hoped to be able to develop an intranasal stent that is comfortable and discreet,” Byrne said.
Byrne pitched the problem to Andrews who, as a senior at the time, was heading a senior design team of five. Together with his colleagues at the university, Andrews worked, beginning in September 2016, to develop Schnozzle, a convenient, comfortable intranasal device made of silicon.
During the design process, Byrne met regularly with Andrews and his team.
“He was quite proactive and independent in his activity. I’d provide him with guidance and pointers, he’d run with it. He’s quite good with project management and coming up with creative ideas,” Byrne said.
Andrews has begun testing the prototype by wearing it around campus and said people aren’t able to tell.
Though Andrews acknowledged that nasal obstruction is not a major disease, he said it has a lot of “downstream effects,” contributing to snoring, sleep apnea and medical conditions related to mouth breathing like dental problems and heart disease.
Andrews graduated from Johns Hopkins earlier this year with a degree in biomedical engineering, a course of study that he said allowed him to explore several of his interests.
“I’ve always been interested in engineering and building things, knew I wanted to find something that married my weird interest in science, health care and medicine with my desire to do design,” Andrews said.
After graduating, Andrews started a one-year fellowship with plans to use his time to test the prototype and hopefully build a business.
According to Byrne, the prototype has been very well received. A clinical trial could start near the end of the year.
In November, Andrews will also be competing in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, an annual contest in which innovative college students vie for $10,000, $5,000 and $2,5000 prizes, in Washington, D.C. The Schnozzle was selected from a national pool of inventions. Andrews and his Johns Hopkins group will face off against teams from the University of Maryland, University of Virginia, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Iowa and the Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Westport native has high hopes the judges will respond well to the device he and his fellow students developed.
“It’s kind of like a contact lens. When you’re putting it in you notice it, but your body gets accustomed to it and very quickly adjusts,” Andrews said. “The crazy thing is, after you take it out, you kind of miss it. You wish you could always breath well.”