North Spark, 319th MDG partnership drives medical innovation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ashley Richards
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

As the Department of Defense recognizes the importance of continual innovation in a constantly evolving technological landscape, North Spark Defense Laboratory here set its sights on medical advancements intended to increase combat survival. 

North Spark Defense Laboratory and the 319th Medical Group are working with private industry partners to improve Tactical Combat Casualty Care concentrated on innovating and improving the way healthcare providers monitor patient vital signs, administer blood transfusions and replenish bodily fluids in austere environments. 

“Every minute of delay in initiating blood transfusion increases the mortality rate by 5%,” said Master Sgt. Brent Harland, the North Spark Defense Laboratory creative lead. “Finding a solution for a faster and more targeted way to replenish fluid loss could potentially increase the combat casualty survival rate.”

North Spark Defense Laboratory was awarded two medical related Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer projects. 

One project focuses on improving the speed, precision and ease of hemorrhagic shock treatment by rapidly infusing blood or fluids to critically ill patients. 

The other project tracks and transmits multiple vital signs in real time to medics providing early notification of trauma in the hopes of reducing medical response times.

The goal of both projects is to significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality rate associated with combat injuries. 

“We are working with two companies who specialize in lifesaving medical equipment to develop a military-hardened version of the device that DOD medical providers could benefit from using when dealing with life-threatening injuries,” Harland said. 

The Department of the Air Force SBIR/STTR is an AFVentures competitive program that allows small businesses within the United States to work with the DOD and other government agencies toward commercializing collaborative research and development projects.

Representatives from both companies visited Grand Forks Air Force Base to showcase their medical devices and seek feedback from airmen working in medical specialties. The companies collected design ideas and tested existing prototypes to assess and refine each device for military use.  

“As a collective group, we were able to test functions of the devices to provide feedback on how to alter the device to meet the needs of a military medical provider,” said Tech. Sgt. April Welch, a 319th MDG independent duty medical technician. “We want to develop a compact, lightweight device that is optimized for warfighter triage when an individual is at or near the point of injury.”

Welch, the SBIR/STTR projects’ technical point of contact, works closely with both companies to share the 319th MDG suggestions, provide progress updates, and accept or decline product deliverables.

“There are three main phases in the SBIR/STTR program: phase one is the feasibility study, phase two is the prototype development, and phase three is the commercialization of the product,” Welch said. “Both companies are in phase two of the project and we are hoping to see the new prototype in the spring of 2023.”

Once the entire SBIR/STTR program is completed throughout all phases, Welch and the North Spark Defense Laboratory hope that the medical products can be utilized throughout the entire DOD, ultimately improving patient outcomes in battlefield trauma care and saving lives.