Liana Kong and Keith Joseph, two alumni from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design (ID ’15) were recently granted a U.S. Patent for abiliLife, a biomedical device company built on a mission to improve the quality of life for the elderly and neurodegenerative patients. It gives patients the ability to move through life with more ease and dignity.
abiliLife was born from a project brief brought to our 2013-2014 Biomedical Engineering Design class co-taught by Dr. Conrad Zapantam, from CMU’s School of Biomedical Engineering, and Wayne Chung, from the School of Design.
“The intent was pitched to us by our client, Dr. Courtney Williamson, a Tepper doctoral student at the time, whose mother developed a need for a posture correcting product due to her severe spinal curvature caused by the onset of Parkinson’s disease,” said Kong. “Dr. Williamson used her business acumen to provide the resources needed to complete our design research and development process. Our proof of concept, now called the Calibrace+, was one of a handful of products accepted by Pittsburgh accelerator, AlphaLab Gear and awarded $25,000 in seed funding from Innovation Works to become the startup it is today.”
“Since its conception, Dr. Williamson has scaled the reach of our product beyond anything that we had originally imagined,” added Joseph. “abiliLife has taken the Calibrace+ to market as an FDA Class I Exempt product that is covered by Medicare in over 30 states with over 50 prescribing physicians using it.
“While Dr. Williamson’s mother passed away before benefitting from our product, the thoracic wearable continues to help so many patients like her and we are humbled to have led its early conceptualization and development.”
For Kong, who is working as an Interaction Designer for Nest, and Joseph, who is working as a UX/UI Designer for IBM, the education the received from the School of Design still influences they work they do every day.
“Being able to design holistically has worked greatly to my advantage in my career, something we were taught again and again in school,” said Kong. “It may seem strange to a young designer to try to solve wicked problems in school, but it prepares you to create solutions at a smaller scale.
“If you know your passion, you will have every resource at your fingertips to drive yourself towards self-discovery and self-improvement as a designer. CMU is challenging and pushes you to your limits.”
“The design thinking exercises that I apply in order to solve software problems today are really similar to the ones I learned in CMU’s Industrial Design program,” said Joseph. “They are transferable skills that prepared me for opportunities in digital tech domains that I otherwise would have never explored.
“The School of Design is a flexible program that enables a greater variety of interdisciplinary work for Product Designers, much like our Biomedical Engineering project that resulted in abiliLife’s Calibrace+,” continued Joseph.
“The breadth of work that you are enabled to produce will help you become an adaptable thinker and creator beyond your current imagination.”