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A NIU researcher’s innovation helps come up with a device to prevent hearing loss in infants in the NICU


DeKalb, Illinois – Technology developed by a professor of electrical engineering at NIU Lichuan Liu It was designed to prevent hearing loss in the most vulnerable newborns, and may soon find its way into hospital neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs.

Liu Professor of Electrical Engineering, NIU Lichuan University

Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) can be noisy. Care units are louder than most home or office environments and have higher sound levels Often exceeding maximum levels Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hearing impairment is diagnosed in 2% to 10% of preterm infants, compared to 0.1% of the general population.

With the aim of harnessing her expertise in electrical engineering to benefit others, Professor Liu invented a device, system and method to significantly reduce harmful noise while maintaining communication between newborn babies and their parents or caregivers.

And in 2014, NIU began a partnership with Invictus Medical, a Texas-based medical device company, to commercialize the technology. NIU licensed related patents to Invictus, while the company continued to improve its incubator-based Active Noise Control (ANC) device, now known as Neoasis®.

in July, declared Invictus The company has received authorization for use from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the device.

The front of the console and main display face the Invictus Medical Neoasis® incubator based Active Noise Control (ANC). Image courtesy of Invictus Medical

“With this license for use, Invictus has taken a huge step toward deploying the Neoasis® ANC device in neonatal intensive care units,” said George Hutchinson, PhD, CEO of Invictus Medical. “It is well documented that a quieter environment has a positive effect, including improved sleep hygiene and weight gain in infants, both of which are critical to development.

“It has been a pleasure working with the NIU team,” added Dr. Hutchinson. “The Innovation Office has been a great teammate throughout the entire process.”

The Neoasis® ANC uses a proprietary and innovative Active Noise Control (ANC) system to mitigate noise through acoustic wave canceling technology. At the same time, it allows the parents’ voice to be directed to the infant, which can also be beneficial for cognitive development. Invictus is currently exploring relationships with strategic partners to introduce the Neoasis® ANC device into neonatal intensive care units – which is now possible with FDA approval.

While universities and researchers can typically achieve modest financial benefits from technology transfer, the primary goal is to broaden the potential impact of research through the creation of innovative products and services for the public benefit. Karen BridbergDirector, NIU Innovation Office. The office has guided Liu through the partnership and patent and licensing processes.

“This is a big deal for Dr. Liu and for NIU,” Bridberg said.

“NIU research has generated other patents and licenses, but we believe this is the first NIU-licensed technology to be integrated into a device with an FDA-approved use,” Bridberg said.

Mark HankinsNIU’s assistant director for technology transfer, credits Professor Liu’s ingenuity, as well as his impressive working relationship with Invictus Medical.

“Dr. Hutchinson in particular has been very diligent in trying to move this technology forward and persevered through a number of roadblocks,” said Hankins.

Professor Liu said it was about a decade ago when President Lisa C. Freeman, then NIU’s vice president for research and innovation partnerships, brought Liu together with Invictus Medical. While Liu developed a prototype, the company refined the device, making it more commercially suitable for neonatal intensive care unit environments.

“Working with industry is a little different than working with academia,” said Professor Liu. “It was a learning curve for me, but Invictus Medial was very professional and easy to work with.”

Now at NIU, Professor Lichuan Liu is conducting research on an AI algorithm that can detect the meaning behind babies’ crying.

Over the years, the marketing process has received financial support from New Foundation and a National Science Foundation (NSF) for Small Business Technology Transfer Grant. Liu, a mother of two, is excited about the prospect of hospitals using the Neoasis® ANC device.

“I think that’s great,” Liu said. “I kept working on this project and I thought that one day there would be revenge.

“I have a passion or drive to work to benefit others,” Liu added. “As a mom, I think this device is something really important. As an engineer, I’m happy to make an impact.”

Liu said her current research includes other ways to use noise cancellation. She’s working on a pillow that would cancel snoring noises, and she and NIU nursing professor Ji Chen are working on a system for adult intensive care units.

In addition, Liu is working on an AI algorithm that can Listen to the infant’s crying and determine whether it is normal or abnormal To indicate a serious or chronic disease. Invictus may incorporate this technology into future versions of its Neoasis® ANC device.

about neo

Northern Illinois University is a nationally recognized, student-centered public research university with expertise that benefits its region and around the world in a broad range of areas, including the sciences and humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health, and law. With its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and educational centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 fields of study while serving a diverse and international student body.


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