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Penn-Developed Mobile App Speeds Lifesaving Information to EMS During Allergy Emergencies

Rescufy Screen ShotDavid Edwards, MBA, is Director of Major Gifts at the Perelman School of Medicine and the brains behind the new app Rescufy, winner of Penn’s “AppItUP” mobile application idea challenge.

The challenge, organized by Penn’s Center for Technology Transfer (CTT) and UPstart, CTT’s business incubator, gathered the best app ideas from throughout the Penn community and connected the winner with the funding and technical expertise necessary to make them a reality.

“I had to read the email a few times for it to sink in that it was open to staff,” says Edwards. “This was a huge opportunity to make my idea a reality.”

Edwards and his wife, Rachel, a weekend nursing supervisor for Penn Care at Home, are parents to a five year-old boy with a severe allergy to tree nuts. Exposure to walnuts, almonds, cashews and such can lead him to a reaction ranging from hives to anaphylaxis, a condition that causes the airways to constrict and the body to shut down. If not treated quickly, it can result in death.

The Edwards’ have received emergency medical training and carry the necessary medications, but wanted a faster and more reliable way to reach 911 and their emergency contacts in the event of an emergency.

The solution: Rescufy.

The app simplifies and expedites the process of notifying first responders, emergency contacts, and sharing medical information in the case of anaphylaxis. Rescufy logs patients’ relevant health information, including name, age, allergy, emergency contacts’ names and phone numbers, and at the push of a button sends a text with this information to 911 and your emergency contacts that includes the caller’s location. “This is the first app for this type of situation to use your phone’s GPS capability in this way,” says Edwards. Rescufy sits on the lock screen of a smartphone and can be activated at the push of a button, even when the phone is locked.

Edwards’ app was one of nearly 200 initial entries submitted from almost every Penn school and center. The ideas were reviewed by a team of venture capitalists, who chose the 10 most viable ideas to “build a business around.” Rescufy, then called Anaphylaxis 911, made the cut. He then presented his idea to a team of software developers, who chose the final five apps to be paired with a software development team to develop a prototype. Again, Rescufy made the cut.

Edwards was partnered with Boston-based Kanda Software, makers of custom software and mobile apps, to develop a prototype that would be presented with the other four finalists to determine the AppItUP challenge winner. He worked closely with the development team over the winter months, preparing for their final presentation in April.

On April 10th, Edwards and Rescufy were announced as the winners. With this came a $15,000 grant and assistance with the process of commercializing the app.

The challenge included some stiff competition from students, faculty and staff in the Perelman School of Medicine, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Design School, the Wharton School of Business, Penn’s law school and others.

In the first year of the competition, Edwards was the only staff member of the finalists -- all the rest of the teams were spearheaded by faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students—to submit an idea.

“I’m really glad to work for an organization that gives me the opportunity to do this,” says Edwards.

“I started this wanting to help families like mine, who had a child or family member with a severe allergy, so that they could receive informed care quickly in life-threatening, emergent situations.” He may end up doing so much more. 

Through UPStart, Rescufy recently hired a CEO, Sheree Revilla. They are working to develop an Apple version of the app, as the current prototype is only available on Android phones, and have dreams of expanding to other disease lines. “We have the ability to provide EMS personnel with specific information about a person’s condition, be it diabetes, heart conditions, or general medical information for even the healthiest person, in the event emergent care is needed,” says Edwards. He also sees potential applications of this technology for an international audience.

But, that will come as the company grows and develops. For now, remember Rescufy; it just might save a life—your own or someone you know—someday soon.

Submissions for year two of the AppItUP challenge will be accepted September 15th through October 19, 2014.

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