Becton Dickinson baby delivery device inspired by wine cork invention

It's an incredible story: A YouTube video demonstrating how to free a cork trapped in a wine bottle inspired an Argentine mechanic to develop a simple medical device that uses a similar approach to ease difficult births. Becton Dickinson ($BDX) took notice, licensed the tech and plans to manufacture and market a final version around the world.

The New York Times reports on the invention, in what may be one of the more unusual medical device development stories in recent years. An executive from Becton Dickinson--a New Jersey maker of medical instruments and reagents--told the newspaper that the invention spurred early interest.

"My first reaction, as soon as I saw it, was positive," Gary Cohen, BD's executive vice president for global health, told the The New York Times. "Many inventions get to the prototype stage, but that's maybe 15% of what needs to be done. There's finalizing the design for manufacture, quality control, the regulatory work and clinical studies. Absent that, they don't see the light of day." He got wind of the device at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Odón Device (named after inventor Jorge Odón) is designed to help save a baby stuck in the birth canal. As the NYT story explained, it works pretty simply, where an attendant puts a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the baby's head and then inflates it until it grips the head. Next, the bag is pulled until the head becomes visible. Based on initial testing, it could be a much safer option than existing surgical tools, which include forceps or suction cups, according to the article, and both can harm the baby if not used right. This new device appears to be much safer and easy enough for a midwife to use, the article noted.

Cohen told the newspaper that the device should cost under $50 per unit to make. A final market price isn't known yet, but Cohen explained that it will cost less in poor countries, according to the story.

The World Health Organization has taken interest because of the device's potential benefit in developing countries. As the article explained, WHO is expected to oversee tests on 100 women in China who are in normal labor. In South Africa, another trial will focus on 170 women facing labor problems. (Initial safety testing has taken place on 30 women in Argentina who experienced normal labor, according to the story.)

Odón told the newspaper that he built his initial prototype in his kitchen. From there, an obstetrician saw promise in the idea, and further tinkering and networking led to contact with WHO and then the World Economic Forum and Becton Dickinson's involvement. Today, he continues to improve the technology and patent each change. As the article points out, he'll earn royalties at some point.

- read the NYT story (sub. req)