Beachwood HS student invents replacement for incubator that could be used in third world countries

Device will help prevent hypothermia in preemies
Posted at 4:37 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 11:56:10-04

It is safe to say Swathi Srinivasan is not your typical teenager.

Right now, the 17-year-old high school student is working to save lives in third world countries.

Srinivasan tells News 5 she is simply following in her father's big footsteps to help the tiniest humans.

"He never does anything for money or for a claim. He does it because it's the right thing to do," said Srinivasan.

The Beachwood teen’s father makes a staple in U.S. hospitals — incubators.

"You have 15 million infants, at least, born pre-mature a year," said Srinivasan.

Those newborns rely on incubators to stay alive.

“If you are born premature, you are at risk for things like hypothermia, your body weight is so low," added Srinivasan.

However, in many third world countries, incubators are hard to come by because of the cost. So, in those places, gel-based warmers are popular.

"You have to take a pack, warm it up and then put it underneath the child, but that loses temperature within four hours and then you have to remove it, reheat it and put it back," said Srinivasan.

As that happens, the baby’s body temperature fluctuates, leaving them susceptible to disease.

"So they all seem inadequate because you want something that is cost efficient, energy efficient, portable, safe and reusable, but there is no device that is one of those things," said Srinivasan.

That is until now.

News 5 got the first look at the prototype of Swathi's new baby warming device.

"I actually embedded a secondary heating mechanism within the gel that can maintain the heat and keep the pack hot for more than 30 hours," said Srinivasan.

The Beachwood High School senior tells News 5 that's seven times longer than what's currently available.

“This can actually be something and that's exciting," said Srinivasan.

Right now, there's a patent pending on Srinivasan’s new device.

"You have to go through a lot of testing, maybe incubate chicken eggs, things like that before I move on to getting FDA approval before getting to test on humans. That's a long way down, but the ultimate goal," said Srinivasan.

Srinivasan's warming device, which uses car batteries to recharge, is a much cheaper alternative to the incubators her father creates which cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"His is for the people who can afford it, can pay for the best care, and mine is for people who can't. But, hopefully the level of care they can receive is similar," said Srinivasan.

Srinivasan was able to make four baby warmer prototypes for less than $1,000.

Each of them lasts for more than 30 hours and will cost $100 to manufacture if she gets the green light to bring them to the market.