Ohio University

Russ Prize recipient, esteemed physician shares insight on biodesign process

Russ Prize recipient, esteemed physician shares insight on biodesign process

Paul Yock, Martha Meier Weiland Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, one of five recipients of the 2019 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, detailed his role Tuesday inventing the fundamental approach to intravascular ultrasound imaging, during his talk as part of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology’s Stocker Lecture Series at Baker University Center.

The National Academy of Engineering and Ohio University awarded Yock and the other recipients last February with the 2019 Russ Prize – the largest bioengineering prize in the world – for innovations in coronary angioplasty, enabling minimally invasive treatment of heart disease. Yock is internationally known for his work in inventing, developing, and testing new devices, also including the Rapid Exchange™ stenting and balloon angioplasty system, which is now the primary system in use worldwide.

In his lecture, “The Biodesign Process: A Needs-Based Approach to Health Technology Innovation,” Yock shared that his mentor was John Simpson, another recipient of the 2019 Russ Prize. Working with Simpson, Yock discovered that restenosis, or re-narrowing, happened fairly often in arteries he encountered. The images of arteries he came across weren’t clear enough to depict, so he challenged himself to find a better and clearer way to observe them.

“I thought, ‘I wonder if we could develop an ultrasound technique for looking inside the arteries?’” Yock said. “If we could miniaturize the ultrasound transducer, put it in a catheter inside the artery, we would be able to see a cross-sectional slice of the blood vessel.”

And thus, the intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) was born. Yock recognized the mentorship from Simpson and fellow Stanford physician Tom Fogarty throughout the process.

Yock focused in his talk on the necessity of need-pull innovation, or assessing the needs of an invention first, before then creating technology based on those observations.

“We need a meticulous process that starts out with a focus on needs before inventing,” Yock said. “A well-characterized need is the DNA of a great invention.”

Yock detailed the biodesign framework and process that he, colleagues and students at Stanford apply, citing the Zio patch, a student invention that records heart rhythm disturbances.

“We have a responsibility as inventors of technologies not to leave the value proposition to the end, but to start at the beginning, exploring opportunities for value,” Yock stressed. “They have to go hand in hand.”

Chemical engineering sophomore Matthew Smrdel said he’s looking forward to applying Yock’s practices to his own life.

“I’ve started a few businesses where I’ve moreso started with an idea rather than a need, so now I’ll apply searching for the need, first rather than just a cool idea,” Smrdel said.