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Adult circumcision device makes the (ahem) cut

I’m hardly a medical device expert. So I felt a bit uncomfortable Tuesday sitting on a panel of venture capitalists and engineers judging the “Three-in-Five” competition at the University of Minnesota’s Design of Medical Devices conference. Our task was to evaluate nine inventors pitching their technology and score them based on innovation, clinical need, quality […]

I’m hardly a medical device expert. So I felt a bit uncomfortable Tuesday sitting on a panel of venture capitalists and engineers judging the “Three-in-Five” competition at the University of Minnesota’s Design of Medical Devices conference.

Our task was to evaluate nine inventors pitching their technology and score them based on innovation, clinical need, quality of presentation, etc. The top three presentations get $500 and eternal glory.

I ultimately decided to man up because conference co-chair Marie Johnson assured me I had something valuable to offer. (What exactly, I still don’t know.) Plus I couldn’t resist the chance to judge one particular presentation: “Adult Male Circumcision Tool For Use in Traditional Ceremonies.”

Outside Jewish male babies, I doubted there was much of a market for circumcision. But the opportunities for uncomfortable humor  were too rich to ignore. (“It is a do-it-yourself kit?” one university official joked.)

But the funniest thing happened: I was really impressed. So impressed I gave the presentation my top score.

The technology, developed at the University of Michigan, is a disposable cage-like device that protects and supports the tip of the penis during circumcision. The team wants to market the adjustable, low-cost device to third world countries in sub-Saharan Africa where circumcision is not only a traditional male rite of passage, but also a clinically proven way to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Cutting the foreskin off the penis is kind of tricky so it’s not terribly a shock to learn that many circumcision ceremonies go awry, including infection and accidental cutting/amputation of … well, you get the picture.

Convincing  a tribe to use the odd-looking device in a culturally sensitive way is also tricky, which is why the team plans to partner with international nonprofit health groups to promote the technology. Oh, in case someone is tempted to use it again (a big no-no), the device also comes equipped with an “automatic disabling feature.”

To me, the device is innovative, addresses a real clinical need, and, let’s face it, way more interesting than “An Articulating Tool for Endoscopic Screw Delivery.”

Good luck penis skin cutting device.