New football helmet innovation from University of Washington startup wins NFL award

November 13, 2014

Seattle-based University of Washington and its commercial partner, 2014 UW startup VICIS, Inc., developer of a new football helmet designed to mitigate the forces likely to cause concussion, have been named one of the winners of the National Football League, GE and Under Armour funded Head Health Challenge II. UW researchers founded VICIS, Inc. and developed the innovative new helmet.

A collaboration between the NFL, General Electric Co. and Under Armour sports apparel company, the Head Health Challenge is a search for solutions that help prevent, measure and detect brain injury. First launched in 2013, this year's second global challenge will award up to $8.5 million for new innovations and materials that can protect the brain from traumatic injury. The 2014 Head Health Challenge II received more than 500 proposals from 19 countries. (Visit to learn more.)

"Our win validates this helmet's promise as a significant breakthrough in the protection of young athletes against brain injury," said Dave Marver, VICIS CEO and an experienced medical technology executive.

The technology UW and VICIS are developing has shown unprecedented reduction in linear and rotational acceleration, the forces likely to cause concussion. The company's innovation is a result of collaboration between renowned researchers in mechanical engineering and neurosurgery at UW, including Per Reinhall, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jonathan Posner, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Samuel Browd, associate professor of neurological surgery, pediatric neurosurgeon and medical director of the Sports Concussion Program at Seattle Children's, a joint program between Seattle Children's and UW Medicine at Harborview Medical Center. Together with business leaders and public health experts, Reinhall and Browd say the UW/VICIS team is committed to using science to protect young athletes.

"UW Mechanical Engineering is full of bright and talented people who are eager to solve the problem of sports-related concussion," Reinhall said. "Our selection as a grant recipient demonstrates the potential of our helmet."

Reinhall and Posner will lead overall coordination of the project, including making sure all helmet safety standards and considerations are met that could influence design and manufacturing. His mechanical engineering research team will design, model, develop a prototype and run impact testing on the new helmet.

Browd, who initially formed the VICIS team and co-invented the technology with Reinhall, said innovation in football helmet technology is long overdue since helmets have not changed significantly in the last 50 years.

"UW Neurological Surgery and our partners throughout UW Medicine and Seattle Children's are at the forefront of concussion research, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and advocacy," Browd said. "We are confident this new helmet will help diminish the risk of concussion among young athletes."

The UW team that is working on the helmet project has received funding from the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) and the Coulter Foundation. The company has also received investments from Seattle-based Alliance of Angels and the W-Fund, a venture capital fund that provides early-stage investment to accelerate the success of Washington's most promising technology-based startup companies originating from research institutions and students across the state. VICIS is one of 16 startups currently housed in the UW Center for Commercialization's business incubator, known as the New Ventures Facility, which was named emerging incubator of the year in a ranking of top university business incubators by the 2014 University Business Incubators Global Index.
About the University of Washington Center for Commercialization (C4C)

As one of the leading recipients of federal funding for research, UW is producing innovations that have the power to change the world--from biofuel alternatives, to more effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and brain cancer, to purification technology for drinking water in the developing world. Dedicated to helping UW researchers achieve the greatest impact from their innovations, UW C4C continues to implement new programs and integrate its resources to provide one of the best university commercialization centers for UW researchers.

UW Center for Commercialization (UW C4C)

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