Couplet Care Infant Bassinet Awarded a Phase I SBIR Grant

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October 2, 2018
Thoughts by
Tyler Hagler

October 2, 2018(CHAPEL HILL, NC) -

The Couplet Care postnatal infant bassinet has been awarded a $150k SBIR grant through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development through the National Institute of Health. Kristin Tully, PhD with UNC and Ty Hagler with Trig are Co-Principal Investigators for the award, reflecting the highly collaborative nature of the project.

Dr Kristin Tully and Ty Hagler at the Innovate Carolina conference

Initial funding for the Couplet Care project was provided through the Improving Human Health award from North Carolina Translational & Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute. As the award period was coming to a successful close, the team identified an NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) opportunity. The SBIR program is a government funded initiative to encourage small United States businesses to lead the design, development, and of new technologies that have potential to positively impact health through commercialization. Since the Couplet Care company had not yet been formed, Trig was asked to serve as the designated small business for this next phase of the work. This arrangement highlights the partnership and mission-driven collaboration developed by Dr. Tully and Mr. Hagler.

The Couplet Care Bassinet project was initiated by Dr. Kristin Tully, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Working in conjunction with NC State College of Design faculty and graduate students, Dr. Tully and her collaborators sought to change the experience new parents have in caring for their newborns while during the postnatal period. A common stand alone hospital bassinet has a tub with high walls which causes difficulty for the mother in lifting the infant out or placing them back inside. Drop risk is also a safety concern with these type of bassinets, as they are not designed for this use and especially not in the context of fatigue and other aspects of childbirth recovery.

The insights and Ideation phase was led by graduate students at the N.C. State Industrial Design program, through a class taught by Dr. Sharon Joines, Associate Dean of the College of Design. After extensive needs finding interviews, research, and talking with stakeholders, students presented 10 individual bassinets designs with their own unique features. From those 10 designs, the most promising elements were selected by clinicians and researchers from UNC and Industrial Design professionals at Trig. Two of the students, Prasad Joshi and Charity Kirk, contributed to the level of inventors on the now patented device.

As the Gen1 prototype was successfully completed, Dr Tully led the stakeholder evaluation, conducting in-hospital maternal interviews and leading multiple rounds of clinician feedback gathering. Working closely with the team at Trig, the combined feedback provided clear direction for an improved bassinet design that prioritizes the mother and infant experience in the hospital. This Gen2 prototype was completed in September 2018 with support from Hangar6 and received another round of stakeholder feedback.

The SBIR Phase I award is providing essential funding to keep the product closely aligned with the needs of mother and baby. The dual expertise of world class clinical research with the UNC CGBC team and product design at Trig is laying the foundations for Couplet Care to positively improve the patient experience, safety, and clinical efficiency.

“Dr. Tully’s work is an exemplary case study in deeply understanding a problem and organizing the resources necessary to make change happen. The incredible support from the healthcare community and patients is a testament to her diligence. It is a privilege to be able to partner with her and the UNC team as we seek to bring Couplet Care to market.”

The work reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R43HD097017. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About SBIR

The Small Business Innovation Research(SBIR) program is a government-funded competition to encourage small United States businesses to take on the research and development of new technologies that have potential for commercialization.

About Couplet Care

Couplet Care, LLC develops tools to improve patient safety and clinical efficiency while promoting positive parent and infant health outcomes. For more information visit www.coupletcare.com.

About Trig

Now in its tenth year, Trig is an award-winning industrial design firm focused on excellence in insights and ideation, design and development, and brand and digital services for entrepreneurs and product development teams around the world.

Media Contact

Ty Hagler, Founder and Principal

Phone: 919-480-8744


Tyler Hagler

As a career industrial designer and innovation practitioner, Ty Hagler has managed hundreds of new product development programs through the process of opportunity identification guided to commercialization.


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