Twins create life-saving allergy device

By Evan and Eric Edwards, Special to CNN
updated 8:20 AM EDT, Thu May 9, 2013
(CNN) — As young children, the stress and burden of our life-threatening allergies to a range of common foods, including nuts, seafood, shellfish, eggs and other substances, really fell on our parents more than us.
Like many kids, we were unaware and felt invincible. We didn’t worry too much about managing our allergies. That changed after the first severe allergic reaction either of us had.
Evan was playing at a friend’s house when he ate what he had been assured was a “fake peanut.” Almost immediately, it was apparent that something was very, very wrong. Luckily, his friend’s dad also happened to be Evan’s doctor; he treated him immediately, and the incident was resolved.
Life-threatening allergies were much less common when we went to school, so we really stood out as the “strange twins with allergies” — those guys who had to sit at a separate table by themselves at lunchtime. It is unfortunate that severe allergies are much more widespread now, but there is a silver lining: People and organizations are more aware and better able to support the children and adults who suffer.
The idea to develop a new epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known as an EpiPen), specifically designed for the needs of patients like us, came about the summer after we graduated high school. We were on our way to a family vacation in Europe, and it looked as if, once again, the two of us had not packed our EpiPens. They were too bulky so we often didn’t carry them.
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After the usual finger-pointing and questions about why we didn’t carry something that could save our lives, the idea of developing a smaller, more portable type of epinephrine auto-injector was born.
At the time, we had recently selected our college majors. (Evan went into the engineering program at the University of Virginia, and Eric chose pre-med/medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.) We decided to customize our education to develop the skills necessary to make this invention a reality. At the start of each school year we reviewed our course options and decided together which classes to take that would help us achieve our goal.
Our first real funding came from winning a collegiate inventors’ grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. It was at that point we knew we were on our way.
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