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Inventing a New Future for Neurosurgery Patients

JUST SHY OF HIS THIRD BIRTHDAY, JUSTUS FUCCILLO HAS ALREADY ENDURED  RISKY BRAIN SURGERIES. He was born with a relatively common condition in which excess fluid builds up on his brain and whose only treatment is an implanted drainage tube designed more than 50 years ago. Although the device helps keep him healthy, the tube is notorious for failing, clogging and risking infections. However, his mother, Sarah Fuccillo, is more hopeful than ever thanks to an entirely new device designed and being built by UW researchers. “My son’s future quite literally depends on it.”

Justus’ doctor, Samuel Browd, a UW and Seattle Children’s pediatric neurosurgeon, teamed with UW bioengineering assistant professor Barry Lutz to find a solution. “We knew if we could develop a new, better device, it would have an impact,” says Barry. The device is designed to resist clogging and is “smart” — measuring pressure and controlling fl ow using a computer chip and power supply that runs only when needed. Two designs — one for short-term external use and another long-term implant — promise greater safety, improved quality of life and health care savings.

Funding from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation launched the project and led to additional support including a gift from the Washington Research Foundation. “Those gifts allowed us to move on ideas quickly, and the momentum they generated helped us secure additional funding this past year,” Barry said. He and Samuel are now launching a company, Aqueduct Neurosciences, with the help of UW’s Center for Commercialization to help speed the device to market.

Despite the estimated two to five year wait until the device is available, Justus and his family are grateful that people care enough to invest in something new. “For supporters of this project, it may seem like it’s only about writing a check; for me, it’s about saving my son’s life, ” said Sarah. To learn more about how you can support faculty innovators like Barry Lutz, visit

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