Making Innovation Real

October 23, 2017

The UT System Office of Innovation and Strategic Investment looks at health-related innovation and research around the system.

By Kaulie Lewis
Population Health Scholar
University of Texas System
Master's Student in Journalism
UT Austin Moody College of Communication



The University of Texas System Office of Innovation and Strategic Investment recently released Making Innovation Real, a report on how UT institutions and researchers are changing lives across Texas. It features a number of stories on health-related innovation and research.

At The University of Texas at Dallas, researchers led by Dr. Mike Kilgard have developed a minimally invasive therapy for tinnitus, a disorder that causes sufferers to constantly hear noises that aren’t there. Adapting a treatment long used for epilepsy, Kilgard’s team paired with a UT Dallas spinout company to develop the Serenity System, a device that uses the body’s ability to reroute neural pathways to correct some of the “broken circuits” that cause tinnitus. John Eaton, one of the first patients to test the system, says it’s the first treatment that’s given him relief from over 60 years of constant noise. From the story:

“My wife encouraged me to call and find out if anyone at UT Dallas was doing any work in tinnitus,” Eaton recalls. “It was like a Hollywood experience, total coincidence, with everything hitting at the right time.”

Initially, a small battery pack was implanted in John’s upper chest with a wire lead connecting to the vagus nerve in his neck. Each morning, he dons headphones that emit tones paired with the bursts of stimulation to the vagus nerve, which retrains his brain to minimize the sound of the tinnitus.

Across the state, a team working out of UTHealth Houston has developed a new tool to aggregate patient data so that providers and clinicians can make better and faster decisions. Dr. John Holcomb, a former Army surgeon with extensive experience improving trauma care for wounded soldiers, focused on figuring out how to make the best use of data contained (and often hidden) in electronic medical records. His work, along with the help of a team of coders, software engineers and clinicians, eventually led to the development of the Decisio Health Clinical Intelligence Platform. The system aggregates and analyzes patient data in real time, then displays it on a patient-specific dashboard.

“The dashboard doesn’t replace clinical thinking,” one trauma nurse said. “It just provides us an excellent picture of how a patient is doing, and makes our care better.”

For every project in the end stages of development, like the Serenity System or the Decisio Platform, there are others that are just getting started. Many of these are supported by Texas Venture Connect, a program with the objective of connecting university-related researchers with entrepreneurial mentors. In-progress projects include Biosense, a wearable sensor that informs the wearer about his or her metabolic state, and My Learning Curve, a tool that helps childcare providers and clinicians assess premature children for learning and developmental delays.

As impressive as these projects are, they’re only the beginning. Expect to see even more life-improving projects in the months and years ahead as UT System innovators continue to find new ways to expand and apply their research and skills.

To keep up with UT System-wide innovation news, follow the Office of Innovation and Strategic Investment on Twitter @InnovationUTS.