The first things visitors see in 1789 Venture Lab on Franklin Street are a ping pong table, arcade games, and an assortment of comfy chairs.
But when Chase DuBois, Jorge Martinez-Blat, John Pamplin and Christopher Roberts come there, there’s no time for fun and games — with the exception of a quick round of ping pong.
The four UNC graduates meet to discuss progress on their invention, VoluMetric, a handheld drug delivery device that increases the accuracy of measuring chemotherapy drugs. A seven-inch by three-inch sensor attached to a syringe measures the distance the plunger is pulled back and the volume of fluid taken.
Roberts said technicians typically measure the amount of chemotherapy drugs based on the tick marks on the syringe, but the accuracy of that process can vary.
“There is a lot of variation between the prescribed doses versus the doses actually going out," he said.
The team started their inventing process during a two-semester biomedical engineering senior design class beginning fall 2013. Stephen Eckel, a professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, asked them to find a way to make the chemotherapy program at UNC Hospitals more accurate.
“When you’re dealing with chemotherapy drugs, it’s just barely not killing you and killing all the cancer cells,” Pamplin said. “So a very small amount in the difference in the accuracy can be quite literally be the difference between life and death.”
Designing a prototype proved to be a challenge. The team wanted to make the device both easy to use and affordable. DuBois said VoluMetric has the potential to help hospitals with less money than UNC.
“UNC has the ability to actually buy some of the other systems that increase accuracy,” he said. “But there are a lot of hospitals out there that just can’t afford these multi-million dollar systems, but could afford our system and drastically improve their cancer treatment.”