Half Moon Bay High School graduate Jennifer Steger, center, is part of a team that is a finalist in a national invention contest. Photo courtesy Matt Hagan

As far as introduction to entrepreneurship goes, Jennifer Steger’s first go has been remarkably successful. Steger, a Half Moon Bay native and University of Washington graduate student, and her team of two alumni and one industry professional have been selected as finalists for the National Inventors Hall of Fame 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition.

The group’s work, the Nanodropper, was selected with four other graduate projects that will be presented on Oct. 30 in Alexandria, Va., to the National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officials. The Hall of Fame announced the finalists on Sept. 19. 

The Nanodropper is a universal adapter for eye drop medication bottles, and creates a smaller and more efficient method to reduce waste and cost. The project synopsis stated, “Oversized drops dispensed from these bottles result in wasted medication, leading many patients to run out before their insurance will cover a refill — and each missed dose can contribute to vision loss.”

Other finalists include a load stabilizing system for helicopters from Stanford University, and a cooling system for filtering and saving drinkable water from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Steger, 28, graduated from Half Moon Bay High School in 2009, then earned a degree in neuroscience at Brown in 2013. Now, four years into a pharmacology doctorate program, this new opportunity presented plenty of challenges. Working a full-time job while designing high-tech equipment was the big hurdle. 

It was Steger’s lab manager, Allisa Song, who first asked her to join the project. Now, Nanodropper is a full-on startup; Song is the CEO and Steger is the chief scientific officer. Regardless of the team’s results in Virginia, the Nanodropper can be commercialized. With the patent pending, the product won $15,000 at the 2019 Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge through the University of Washington Foster School of Business. 

The team has raised more than $300,000 in funding, and signed contracts with manufacturers in the United States. Steger said they plan a soft launch at the start of next year.

This version corrects the make-up of the team involved in the project.

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