Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Mar

Mar
22
2017

The Swanson School Presents Alumnus Mark DiSilvestro with 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award for Bioengineering

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2017) … Collectively they are professors, researchers and authors; inventors, builders and producers; business leaders, entrepreneurs and industry pioneers. The 53rd annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet brought together honorees from each of the Swanson School of Engineering’s six departments and one overall honoree to represent the entire school. The banquet took place at the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall, and Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, presented the awards. This year’s recipient for the Department of Bioengineering was Mark DiSilvestro, MSBEG ’99, PhD BIOE ’00, COO of Cases By Source and President of Vista Management Consulting LLC. “Despite Bioengineering being our newest department, its alumni have had truly outstanding successes,” said Dean Holder. “Mark earned both his master’s and PhD in bioengineering from Pitt and since then has established himself in the medical device industry, first at the startup Tissue-Informatics, and later as an R&D specialist. His career has truly been interdisciplinary and is an example how an engineer can play a critical role in translational research, operations and business development.”About Mark DiSilvestroDr. Mark DiSilvestro earned both an MS and a PhD in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 and 2000, respectively. He was a member of the Musculoskeletal Research Center where he was a Whitaker Research Fellow. He earned his BS in biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in 1996. DiSilvestro has built a career in the medical device industry as a technical contributor in R&D and product development, as a manager of projects and teams and as an executive responsible for all business operations. He began by working at a startup company, TissueInformatics, as a principal scientist. He worked with a team that developed a high speed imaging device for scanning histology slides and creating digital montages of tissue sections that were characterized using novel algorithms. DePuy Orthopaedics, a Johnson & Johnson company, recruited DiSilvestro in 2001. He began with DePuy as a senior engineer in sensors and electronic technologies and was promoted first to staff engineer and then to Manager of Global Concept Development. After leaving Depuy, he went to Becton Dickinson where he developed a global project prioritization process integrated with the company’s change management process which achieved $3 million in annualized cost reductions in its first year. He continued his management role when he left Becton Dickinson to join Medin Corporation in 2008. By 2013, DiSilvestro was promoted to COO and was responsible for all operations of the business.In 2009, DiSilvestro started his own consulting company, Vista Management Consulting LLC. As president, he oversees projects ranging from performing mechanical analysis of structures for design optimization to organizational assessments and recommendations for hiring and process improvements. He was recruited to Cases By Source in 2016, and he is currently the COO. ### Photo Above: Dean Holder (left) with Mark DiSilvestro and BioE Department Chair Sanjeev Shroff.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
22
2017

Society for Biomaterials Awards Bioengineering Graduate Student with Honorable Mention for Outstanding Paper

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH, PA (March 22, 2017) … The Society for Biomaterials has selected Puneeth Shridhar, a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, as the recipient of an Honorable Mention Student Travel Achievement Recognition (STAR) Award. The Society’s Education and Professional Development Committee chose to recognize Shridhar for his work titled “The Rescue Stent for Non-Compressible Traumatic Hemorrhage.”The Rescue Stent is a medical device designed to manage firearm trauma in a battlefield or civilian environment. Currently, patients suffering from large vessel hemorrhaging after a chest trauma must be transported to a hybrid operating room for treatment. The process usually takes about 20 minutes. Early intervention greatly improves the outcome of the treatment, and often a matter of seconds can largely impact the patient’s health. The Rescue Stent can be placed in only four minutes. It stops the life-threatening bleeding and allows blood to continue to circulate to the patient’s organs.Shridhar is currently pursuing a second doctoral degree in the Department of Bioengineering and is advised by Youngjae Chun, assistant professor in the Departments of Industrial Engineering and Bioengineering at Pitt. He previously earned his MD from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Karnataka, India, and he works with Chun in the Medical Device Manufacturing Lab at Pitt. “In the past year, Puneeth and I have authored more than 20 research papers focused on various medical devices with critical applications to many different parts of the body,” said Chun. “He is very passionate about next-gen devices, and the STAR recognition is a very positive sign that Puneeth will be a future leader in the biomaterial arena.”The United States Department of Defense recently awarded a team from Pitt $2.5 million to develop the Rescue Stent technology. Bryan Tillman, assistant professor of vascular surgery at Pitt’s School of Medicine, serves as principal investigator on the project. Three professors from the Swanson School of Engineering have joined Tillman: William Clark, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; Sung Kwon Cho, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; and Chun.    Shridhar will receive the award at the Society for Biomaterials 2017 Annual Meeting this April in Minneapolis, MN. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
7
2017

One Step at a Time: Pitt engineering and medical programs receive NSF award to develop ultrasonic sensors for a hybrid exoskeleton

Bioengineering, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 7, 2017) … The promise of exoskeleton technology that would allow individuals with motor impairment to walk has been a challenge for decades. A major difficulty to overcome is that even though a patient is unable to control leg muscles, a powered exoskeleton could still cause muscle fatigue and potential injury. However, an award from the National Science Foundation’s Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) program will enable researchers at the University of Pittsburgh to develop an ultrasound sensor system at the heart of a hybrid exoskeleton that utilizes both electrical nerve stimulation and external motors. Principal investigator of the three year, $400,000 award is Nitin Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Co-PI is Kang Kim, associate professor of medicine and bioengineering. The Pitt team is collaborating with researchers led by Siddhartha Sikdar, associate professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering at George Mason University, who also received a $400,000 award for the CPS proposal, “Synergy: Collaborative Research: Closed-loop Hybrid Exoskeleton utilizing Wearable Ultrasound Imaging Sensors for Measuring Fatigue.”This latest funding furthers Dr. Sharma’s development of hybrid exoskeletons that combine functional electrical stimulation (FES), which uses low-level electrical currents to activate leg muscles, with powered exoskeletons, which use electric motors mounted on an external frame to move the wearer’s joints. “One of the most serious impediments to developing a human exoskeleton is determining how a person who has lost gait function knows whether his or her muscles are fatigued. An exoskeleton has no interface with a human neuromuscular system, and the patient doesn’t necessarily know if the leg muscles are tired, and that can lead to injury,” Dr. Sharma explained. “Electromyography (EMG), the current method to measure muscle fatigue, is not reliable because there is a great deal of electrical “cross-talk” between muscles and so differentiating signals in the forearm or thigh is a challenge.” To overcome the low signal-to-noise ratio of traditional EMG, Dr. Sharma partnered with Dr. Kim, whose research in ultrasound focuses on analyzing muscle fatigue. “An exoskeleton biosensor needs to be noninvasive, but systems like EMG aren’t sensitive enough to distinguish signals in complex muscle groups,” Dr. Kim said. “Ultrasound provides image-based, real-time sensing of complex physical phenomena like neuromuscular activity and fatigue. This allows Nitin’s hybrid exoskeleton to switch between joint actuators and FES, depending upon the patient’s muscle fatigue.” In addition to mating Dr. Sharma’s hybrid exoskeleton to Dr. Kim’s ultrasound sensors, the research group will develop computational algorithms for real-time sensing of muscle function and fatigue. Human subjects using a leg-extension machine will enable detailed measurement of strain rates, transition to fatigue, and full fatigue to create a novel muscle-fatigue prediction model. Future phases will allow the Pitt and George Mason researchers to develop a wearable device for patients with motor impairment. “Right now an exoskeleton combined with ultrasound sensors is just a big machine, and you don’t want to weigh down a patient with a backpack of computer systems and batteries,” Dr. Sharma said. “The translational research with George Mason will enable us to integrate a wearable ultrasound sensor with a hybrid exoskeleton, and develop a fully functional system that will aid in rehabilitation and mobility for individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries or strokes.” ### Photo above: Dr. Kim (left) with Dr. Sharma and a hybrid exoskeleton prototype in the Neuromuscular Control and Robotics Laboratory at the Swanson School of Engineering.

Feb

Feb
15
2017

An Impact on Implants

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 15, 2017) … The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Bryan Brown, assistant professor of bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, a five-year, $1.54 million R01 grant for his investigation into the immune system response to implanted medical materials.The study, “Assessing the Impact of Macrophage Polarization Upon the Success of Biomaterial Implants,” will build on Brown’s previous studies demonstrating that macrophage M1 and M2 polarization at early time points after the implantation of a biomedical material can predict long-term reactions by the host’s immune system. The information gathered by the study could significantly improve the success of biomaterial implants and minimize the negative response from the patient’s immune system, according to Brown.“Our current tests have shown that the first week of macrophage activity near the host-implant interface can predict the immune system response downstream as far as 90 days,” says Brown. “We have developed methods for modulating macrophage activity, which we will use to understand why and how these early events after implantation serve as a precursor to the lifespan of the implant. Our research is suggesting, contrary to conventional understanding of host-biomaterial interactions, macrophages can be used to encourage positive, long-term outcomes for the implant and the patient.”Macrophages are white blood cells charged with protecting the body from health threats, including foreign bodies like biomaterial implants. When an implant is placed inside the body, the macrophages recognize its presence and can exhibit either a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory response. Brown and his team have developed methods for observing, measuring and controlling these responses. They will attempt to find optimal designs for biomaterials that not only accommodate the involvement of the immune system but promote positive interaction between the body’s natural defenses and the implanted material. A variety of medical fields rely on the use of biomaterial implants to save and improve the quality of life for patients: orthopedics for joint repair, ophthalmology to restore vision, cardiovascular surgery for heart valve and artery replacement and dentistry for tooth and gum tissue support. Biomaterial implants are also common in the healing of wounds and bone fractures. Brown believes his study will provide researchers with a framework for understanding how the host’s immune system responds to implanted materials and how to use that response to develop more successful procedures for any treatment involving biomaterial implantation. Pamela Moalli, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Pitt and co-director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Female Pelvic Health; and Stephen Badylak, professor in the Department of Surgery and Deputy Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, will join Brown on the study as co-investigators.About Dr. BrownDr. Bryan Brown graduated from Pitt with a BS in mechanical engineering in 2005 and a PhD in bioengineering in 2011. He completed his postdoctoral training in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Clinical Sciences at Cornell University. Brown has a secondary appointment in Pitt’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science and is a member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. He is currently a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar at Magee Women’s Research Institute in Pittsburgh and an adjunct assistant professor of clinical sciences at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.Brown is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Society for Biomaterials, the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) and the American Urogynecologic Society. He received the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine Young Investigator Award, the TERMIS Educator Award and the Carnegie Science Award. Brown served as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and for the Carnegie Science Awards. He is on the editorial board of Cells, Tissues, and Organs and Current Pathobiology Reports.The Brown Laboratory works to couple mechanistic understanding of the host inflammatory response in injury and disease with the development of context-dependent biomaterials for regenerative medicine strategies. With emphasis on clinical applications in which few effective solutions currently exist, the Brown Laboratory focuses on unmet needs in women’s health. Recent areas of significant interest are temporomandibular joint disease and pelvic organ prolapse. The Laboratory has received funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of General Medical Science, Office of Research on Women’s Health and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Feb
6
2017

A Bridge to Breathing

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (February 6, 2017) … Acute and chronic lung diseases are the most life-threatening causes of hospitalization and death among young children. This is especially true for children suffering from cystic fibrosis. The path to recovery often leads to a lung transplant, but the wait list for pediatric patients can last for months and require lengthy hospital stays anchored to large mechanical ventilators. To safely bridge the time between diagnosis and transplant while allowing patient mobility, a research team led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, working with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is developing a compact respiratory assist device for children. The Pittsburgh Pediatric Ambulatory Lung (P-PAL) would replace traditional oxygenation methods as a bridge to transplant or recovery in children with lung failure.The proposal, “Ambulatory Assist Lung for Children,” was the recipient of a four-year, $2,357,508 R01 award from the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute. Program Director/Principal Investigator is William J. Federspiel, Professor in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Co-PIs are William R. Wagner, Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at Pitt; and Peter D. Wearden, congenital cardiothoracic surgeon and Department Chair, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, Department of Cardiovascular Services at the Nemours Children's Health System, Orlando, Florida.“Standard existing therapy not only restricts children’s mobility in the hospital but can also cause lung damage and/or worsening of the child’s health,” Dr. Federspiel explains. “Our new approach allows the patient’s lungs to rest and heal, and if the child is a candidate for lung transplantation, the mobility afforded by the P-PAL will lead to better post-transplant outcomes.”One of P-PAL’s most innovative features is that it will allow young patients to remain mobile in the hospital while under treatment or awaiting transplant. “Pediatric patients can still be active children, and at young ages you don’t want to restrict them to a hospital bed,” Dr. Wagner said. “The P-PAL is a self-contained, minimally-invasive device that can provide children with mobility even while awaiting a transplant.”Co-investigators on the award include Jonathan D’Cunha, Associate Professor of Surgery in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Pitt, and Greg W. Burgreen, Associate Research Professor at the Mississippi State University Bagley College of Engineering. ### Illustration at top: Patient ambulation with the P-PAL (Randal McKenzie Illustrations)

Jan

Jan
30
2017

Wearing a New Coat: Forbes Names Two Pitt Engineering Alumni “30 Under 30” in Manufacturing & Industry

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH, PA (January 30, 2017) … With the new year comes a new class of honorees for Forbes’ 30 Under 30 ranking of young innovators and visionaries, and this year University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering alumni Noah Snyder and Kasey Catt were recognized for their work as founders of a coating and surface treatment startup. However, as with most entrepreneurs, they found that the trials and tribulations to bring one idea to fruition would actually serve as a lesson to bring a more successful product to market. The idea for their company, Interphase Materials, started while Snyder and Catt were doctoral candidates in Pitt’s bioengineering program. They worked in the Neural Tissue Engineering Lab (NTE Lab) under advisor Tracy Cui, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at Pitt. “At the NTE Lab we investigate interactions between neural tissue and smart biomaterials,” explains Cui. “We research new tools to improve the performance of neural recording devices when implanted in tissue. Noah and Kasey, who we are proud to have as lab alumni, had a great impact on our research, but they had aspirations to take concepts from the lab and apply them directly to patients or other people in need.”After participation in Pitt’s Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program, Snyder caught the entrepreneurial bug. He invited Catt to join him in the Innovation Institute’s Startup Pittblitz—a weekend-long dash for Pitt students to take a new business or product and make it ready to pitch to investors by Sunday afternoon. The two came up with an idea to apply a technology from their lab to the development of anti-microbial brain implants.“The scientific approach of collecting lots of data and analyzing every detail differs greatly from the entrepreneurial mentality,” says Snyder. “When I started participating in some of the entrepreneurial programs offered at Pitt, I knew I wanted to take what we were working on in the lab and find a way to make it marketable, even if it meant making a lot of assumptions and discovering new things along the way.”Their experience with Pittblitz encouraged them to enter the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, an annual startup competition helping Pitt students commercialize their ideas. Snyder and Catt tweaked their business plan to focus on dental implants and won the competition’s $25,000 top prize. They then entered Blast Furnace, a business accelerator for Pitt students, and won another first prize at the Wells Competition, both of which are offered by the Innovation Institute. At this time, they decided to make a critical pivot to the business. “We realized registering dental implants with the Food and Drug Administration would be a long and difficult process. We also didn’t want to give away parts of the company to investors, so we knew we had to come up with something that would be self-sustaining in a short period of time. We wanted to make an impact on the world in two years, not 20,” says Snyder.Snyder and Catt believed the technology behind the anti-microbial implants could also be used to develop a biochemical additive to prevent things like algae, mold and fungus from contaminating a wide variety of surfaces. They turned their eyes toward industry solutions and were accepted into Alphalab Gear, an early-stage seed investment fund supported by the state. They officially launched Interphase Materials with Snyder serving as CEO and president and Catt as the CTO.From Inside the Brain to Outside the BoxInterphase Materials began promoting an industrial coating that protected pipelines, bridges and boats from contamination by marine life. According to Snyder, they quickly found a large potential market in tube and pipe coatings used for cooling power plants. They attracted the attention of construction and manufacturing companies, but their reputation didn’t stop there. The United States Navy offered them a contract to develop coating solutions for nuclear submarines. Although they are trying to balance all of the possibilities for Interphase Materials with a focused business model, Snyder says he’s happy where the business is right now—in terms of both growth and geographical location.“Kasey and I both have roots in western Pennsylvania, and we wanted to keep the company in the region,” explains Snyder. “Pittsburgh is one of the best places to be for the coating industry. PPG Industries, the largest coating company in the world, is headquartered here. Four of the top five largest coating companies internationally are located in Pennsylvania and Ohio. There is a huge talent pool. It’s like the Silicon Valley of advanced materials.”The Forbes 30 Under 30 list comprises 20 industries, ranging from science and technology to art and entertainment, and seeks to “embrace the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of youth.” Tasked with investigating more than 15,000 applicants, a team of 80 judges and 50 staff reporters and editors made the final decisions about the honorees. “After submitting the application to Forbes, I noticed my LinkedIn profile was getting a lot more views by people associated with the magazine,” Snyder says. “I think they were initially interested in us because we started out with brain implants and ended up working on nuclear subs, but all of the information about our business online helped. The University did a good job of supporting us and showcasing us along the way, which also helped us to realize that we could succeed. A lot of people were counting on us at Pitt. Now we have a whole new set of expectations we want to live up to.”Snyder and Catt continue to collaborate with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh on the development of medical implants that are more compatible with the body and the immune system; however, their primary focus, Snyder admits, is the success of Interphase Materials. ### Photo above: Noah Snyder (left) and Kasey Catt.
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jan
30
2017

Swanson School well-represented among recipients of 2017 Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds from the Innovation Institute

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (January 30, 2017) ... The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute has awarded $140,000 to four Pitt Innovator teams to help them move their discoveries towards commercialization, where they can make a positive impact on society. The Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds were established to provide support for promising early-stage Pitt innovations to assist in reducing the technical and/or market risk associated with the innovations and make them more attractive to investors or potential licensees. One of the paths for identifying funding opportunities is through a request for proposal program that was launched in November of 2016 and recently culminated in these awards. “We are thrilled to be able to provide these funds to entrepreneurial Pitt faculty and graduate students to help expedite their commercialization journey,” said Marc Malandro, Founding Director of the Innovation Institute. “Often the most difficult hurdle to climb for commercializing University research is providing so-called ‘gap’ funding that can bridge the space between a promising idea and a marketable product.” The teams were selected by a panel of judges from a pool of two dozen applicants that was narrowed into a group of 10 finalists. The judges included several members of the region’s innovation and entrepreneurship community. They included: Nehal Bhojak – Director of Innovation, Idea Foundry Malcolm Handelsman – President, Pittsburgh Chapter, Keiretsu Forum Jim Jordan – President, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Andy Kuzneski – President, Kuzneski Financial Group Rich Lunak – President & CEO, InnovationWorks Mike Stubler — Managing Director, Draper Triangle Ventures “There were an impressive array of technologies presented by the finalists for the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds. The business applications ranged from novel technologies for cancer therapy and biosensors for congestive heart failure to next generation LED displays and water desalination solutions.  The projects demonstrate not only the breadth of the University of Pittsburgh’s research prowess, but also the excellent coaching and preparation the innovators received from Pitt’s Innovation Institute,” Lunak said. Two awards of $35,000 each were made for innovations with a one-to-one matching partner: Thermoresponsive Hydrogel for Orbital Volume Augmentation Morgan Fedorchak, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Chemical Engineering and Clinical and Translational Science and Jenny Yu, Assistant Professor and Vice Chair, Clinical Operations Department of Ophthalmology, have discovered a non-degradable hydrogel material that can be injected into the orbit of the eye following ocular trauma or as a treatment for genetic eye disorders. The material can also be used to administer anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medications. The funding will be used to provide proof-of-concept studies. Data from the successful completion of the studies will better position the innovation for application to the Department of Defense for funding to explore the therapeutic potential of the technology. Matching funds will come from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Military Medicine Research, whose mission is to address combat-related injuries. Body Explorer: Autonomous Simulated Patient Douglas Nelson Jr. doctoral candidate in the Department of Bioengineering, John O’Donnell, Professor & Chair Department of Nurse Anesthesia, and Joseph Samosky, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering have developed a mannequin medical simulator with projected augmented reality for training medical professionals in anatomy, physiology and clinical procedures. The team has previously participated in the Coulter Translational Partners II program and the Idea Foundry’s Science Accelerator to advance prototype development and usability testing. The new funding will assist in improving the user interface and expanding the BodyExplorer curriculum modules. Click here to see a video describing their invention. Idea Foundry is providing 1:1 matching cash support, in addition to $25,000 of additional in-kind support to assist in securing additional investment. Two projects received $35,000 awards without a matching requirement. Nano-LED Technology for Microdisplays Hong Koo Kim, Bell of PA/Bell Atlantic Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and doctoral student Daud Hasan Emon have developed nano LED structures that have lower energy costs and longer battery life than existing LED technology. Applications include mobile device displays and other micro-display devices. The new funding will support the advancement of prototypes to demonstrate the breadth of the optimal applications. Reactive Extraction of Water: Desalination Without Membranes or Distillation Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering, has developed a chemical method for desalinating water that requires less energy than the longstanding existing methods such as reverse osmosis or flash distillation. The award will fund testing to validate the technology. Malandro said the Innovation Institute is working with those teams not chosen in this funding round to receive other education and funding opportunities to advance their discoveries. The Pitt Ventures Gear Program is an NSF I-Corps Site participant that provides an initial grant of $3,000 for teams to conduct customer discovery and value proposition activities. At the conclusion of each six-week First Gear cohort, teams pitch their ideas for the opportunity to receive from $5,000 to $20,000 from the Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds program. The teams are also eligible to apply for a second round of NSF funding of up to $50,000 from the national I-Corps program. The next First Gear cohort begins February 14, 2017. Applications are due February 1. Click here to learn more and apply. ###
Mike Yeomans, Marketing & Special Events Manager, Innovation Institute
Jan
10
2017

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards four novel biomedical devices with $77,500 total Round-2 2016 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (January 10, 2017) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $77,500 to four research groups through its 2016 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for treatment of diabetes, a medical device for emergency intubation, an innovative method for bone regeneration, and a novel approach for implementing vascular bypass grafts. CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. CMI leadership evaluates proposals based on scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare. “This is our fifth year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.” AWARD 1: Intrapancreatic Lipid Nanoparticles to Treat DiabetesAward for further development and testing of use of lipid nanoparticle technology for the induction of α-to-β-cell transdifferentiation to treat diabetes. George Gittes, MDDepartment of Surgery University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Kathryn Whitehead, PhDDepartment of Chemical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University (Secondary appointment at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine) AWARD 2: The Esophocclude - Medical Device for temporary occlusion of the esophagus in patients requiring emergent intubationContinuation award for further refinement of the Esophocclude Medical Device using human cadaver testing to simulate emergency intubation.Philip Carullo, MDResident, PGY-1 Department of Anesthesiology University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Youngjae Chun, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Industrial Engineering Department of Bioengineering (Secondary) University of Pittsburgh AWARD 3: RegenMatrix - Collagen-mimetic Bioactive Hydrogels for Bone RegenerationContinuation award for fully automating the hydrogel fabrication process, for animal studies and for fine-tuning related innovations. Shilpa Sant, PhDAssistant Professor Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Department of Bioengineering University of Pittsburgh Akhil Patel, MS Graduate Student Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences University of Pittsburgh Yadong Wang, PhD Professor Department of Bioengineering University of Pittsburgh Sachin Velankar, PhDAssociate Professor Department of Chemical Engineering University of Pittsburgh Charles Sfeir, DDS, PhD Associate Professor Department of Oral Biology University of Pittsburgh AWARD 4: TopoGraft 2.0 - Anti-platelet surfaces for bypass grafts and artificial hearts using topo-graphic surface actuationContinuation award for in-vivo validating of results and developing a new approach for topographic actuation of the inner lumen of synthetic bypass grafts. Sachin Velankar, PhD Department of Chemical Engineering University of Pittsburgh Luka Pocivavsak, MD, PhD Department of Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Edith Tzeng, MD Department of Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Robert Kormos, MD Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center About the Center for Medical Innovation The Center for Medical Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering is a collaboration among the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. Over 50 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $900,000 since inception. ###
Author: Yash P. Mokashi, Fellow, Center for Medical Innovation
Jan
9
2017

PITT BIOE WELCOMES THREE NEW FACULTY MEMBERS

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (January 9, 2017) … The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering has announced that Jonathan Vande Geest, Mark Gartner and Warren Ruder have joined its faculty in the Department of Bioengineering. Vande Geest formerly taught at the University of Arizona, and Ruder taught at Virginia Tech. Gartner will be moving from part-time to full-time status within Pitt.“All three of our new faculty members in the Bioengineering Department have proven to be outstanding educators with an excellent mix of experiences inside and outside of the classroom to aid them in teaching our students,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt. Jonathan Vande GeestDr. Vande Geest received his BS in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa in 2000 and his PhD in bioengineering from Pitt in 2005. After graduation, Vande Geest began his career at the University of Arizona in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2009. Vande Geest held positions as an assistant and associate professor while at the University of Arizona.In Arizona, Vande Geest led the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory (STBL), which aims to develop and utilize novel experimental computational bioengineering approaches to study the structure function relationships of soft tissues in human growth, remodeling and disease. The STBL has also devoted significant effort to the development of novel endovascular medical devices. Advances in bioengineering are established in the STBL by seamlessly bringing together state of the art techniques in tissue fabrication, nonlinear optical microscopy, finite element modeling and cell mechanobiology. Current projects in the STBL are focused on neurodegenerative diseases, including primary open angle glaucoma and vocal fold paralysis, as well as the development of a compliance matched tissue engineered vascular graft.Vande Geest is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Physiological Society. Vande Geest’s prior National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award focused on the development of a novel smart polymer based patient specific endovascular device for treating abdominal aortic aneurysms. His laboratory has been funded by more than $4 million in extramural grants from the National Institutes of Health, NSF, AHA and various industrial partners. In 2013, Vande Geest was awarded the Y. C. Fung Young Investigator Award—a society wide medal awarded by the Bioengineering Division of ASME to recognize those demonstrating significant potential to make substantial contributions to the field of bioengineering. In 2015, he became chair of the ASME Bioengineering Division Solids Technical Committee and was selected as a member of the Western States Affiliates Research Committee for AHA. He also currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.Mark GartnerDr. Gartner received his PhD in bioengineering and his ME degree in mechanical and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He also earned an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship and his BS in mechanical engineering from Pitt. Beginning his career in medical product design and development, Gartner worked as a clinical bioengineer in the mechanical circulatory support program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His work included clinical care of patients supported by various types of mechanical circulatory support devices, including total artificial heart and ventricular assist devices. He later designed several types of integrated pump-oxygenator devices and became the director of the Pittsburgh chronic artificial lung program. Gartner’s direct clinical experiences with advanced medical technologies encouraged his interest in the unique design requirements of medical products, and he co-founded Ension, Inc., in 2001. He oversees several medical product development initiatives at Ension, including serving as principal investigator on grants and contracts, most notably, the National Institute of Health’s recent Pumps for Kids, Neonate and Infants (PumpKIN) effort.Gartner developed, and has since taught, the Senior Design course in Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering. The two-semester capstone course requires bioengineering students to synthesize and extend principles from prior coursework toward the design or redesign of medical products. He remains particularly interested in cross disciplinary, non-traditional engineering education opportunities. Gartner received the Outstanding Teaching award from the Department of Bioengineering in 2011 and the Outstanding Part-time Instructor award from the Swanson School in 2015. He has more than 20 years of teaching experience.Warren RuderDr. Ruder graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a BS in civil and environmental engineering in 2002. He completed his MS in mechanical engineering and his PhD in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Ruder was also part of the inaugural “Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine” class, which is a joint program between Pitt and CMU that receives funding from the National Institutes of Health and aims to provide training in biomechanical engineering principles and biology to students pursuing doctoral degrees in bioengineering.His work focuses on merging biomechanical systems and the microscale and nanoscale with engineering living cells and smart material systems, the latter of which involves synthetic biology. Over the years his research has included: two years of research on mammalian cell signal transduction in the laboratory of Professor Aldebaran Hofer at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Surgery; one month in the field in Antarctica studying organismal biomechanics and responses to ice encapsulation (a field of ecological mechanics); and two and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor James Collins, at Boston University, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Ruder left his position as an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech to teach at Pitt as a Bioengineering Assistant Professor. For the past four years at Virginia Tech, Ruder directed the “Engineered Living Systems Laboratory,” a group focused on merging synthetic biology with biomimetic systems. He has published 20 archival papers in journals such as Science, PNAS, Lab-on-a-Chip and Scientific Reports, and his group’s work has been highlighted in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Wired (UK). The student honor society in his department at Virginia Tech selected Ruder as his department’s “Faculty Member of the Year” in 2014. While at Pitt, Ruder will be applying his work to medical technologies and cures for disease. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer