CINCINNATI -- The University of Cincinnati (UC) has received $1 million to establish a research center that will allow competing biomedical companies to pool their funding to develop new medical technologies for minimally invasive surgical procedures.
Known as the Minimally Invasive Medical Technologies Center (MIMTeC), the collaboration will focus on translational research that enables U.S. companies to bring the next generation of minimally invasive medical technologies to market.
The center's initial funding comes from a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center program and membership fees from a consortium of national biomedical device companies.
Biomedical device companies will commit to at least a three-year, renewable membership in MIMTeC, which entitles them to propose, review and vote on research projects that may benefit the entire group. Device manufacturers are also eligible for affiliate membership in the center, which will allow them to stay up to speed on the emerging technologies they will need to produce future devices.
"By collaborating with academia to conduct unbiased research," explains center director Balakrishna Haridas, PhD, "industry stakeholders can share the cost of developing new design methodologies and experimental research tools applicable to each company's product development pipeline. MIMTeC is a national resource in that, when the research is complete, all industry partners will have access to the technologies."
Haridas, associate professor of biomedical engineering, spent more than 10 years designing biomedical devices for companies like Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Ethicon Endo-Surgery prior to joining UC.
The center is the result of two years of collaboration between UC's biomedical engineering department and the Center for Surgical Innovation, whose executive director, Chuck Doarn, will serve as administrative director of MIMTeC.
Current members of MIMTeC include Ethicon-Endo Surgery, Procter and Gamble, Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Cordis Corp., the U.S. Army and Greatbatch Inc.
Haridas says he expects the center to fund about six projects a year, split equally between UC and its institutional collaborator, the University of Minnesota. Projects will increase as more companies join and contribute funds to the center.
Most projects will fall within four broad research themes--tools and algorithms to measure in vivo properties of tissues and organs; laboratory and computational models of tissues and device interactions that mimic in vivo conditions; instrumentation design for image-guided interventions; and miniature embedded sensors (nanotechnology) used to measure the biophysical properties of device-tissue interactions during surgery.
"We're looking at specific design methods and experimental techniques that can be used to test new interventions--for example, computer-simulated scenarios to predict how human tissue responds to a device made of a specific material, or noninvasive methods to determine the physics of interactions between device and tissue," explains Haridas.
These themes meet the center's goal of developing fundamental enabling technologies that member companies can use to develop minimally invasive interventions.
"It's a great model," Haridas adds, "because it gives our industry partners access to unbiased research and the university countless opportunities for students to get hands-on training in biomedical research relevant to industry."
"At the same time, the underlying model for the center permits timely public disclosure of research in the form of publications and allows students working at the center to disseminate the research results."
Haridas says the benefits to UC go far beyond the increased royalty licenses acquired through the research projects.
"Tremendous synergy will be built through this center," he says. "And it's not just within the biomedical engineering department. It's collaboration between the colleges of engineering and medicine, between industry and academia, between our students and industry."
"MIMTEC builds upon existing partnerships and collaborations, which use UC research core facilities like the Center for Surgical Innovation," adds Doarn. "The MIMTEC partnership provides a platform for innovation and discovery, bringing industry, government and academia closer together."
Being an NSF-designated research center also allows UC to apply for much larger grants from the federal government that would allow the university to obtain matching funds from industry for cooperative research projects. Increased research will also provide training opportunities for students as they prepare for careers in the biomedical industry.
"The expanded learning opportunities that MIMTeC provides will essentially allow us to mold the next generation of the biomedical engineering workforce," adds Haridas.
Haridas, Doarn and the others currently conducting research projects for MIMTeC have no financial interest in the center's member companies.