Institute for Engineering in Medicine spurs medical technology development

An upcoming conference sponsored by the University of Minnesota will help medical device companies find opportunities to collaborate on research and product development.

The Institute for Engineering in Medicine (IEM) at the University will hold its annual retreat and conference on September 23, 2013 at the McNamara Alumni Center. Following a plenary session including presentations by four renowned researchers, members of the community can learn about research and collaboration at the university on topics including cardiovascular engineering, neuroengineering, cellular and molecular bioengineering, medical and biological imaging, and medical devices.

Visit the website to register for the Annual IEM Conference and Retreat.

Focus on interdisciplinary collaboration

Bin He, Ph.D., director of IEM, explains that “Our goal is to facilitate collaborations among engineers and biomedical scientists at the university and partners from industry and business. We expect to have many colleagues from these sectors in attendance.” Poster presentations during the afternoon will enable medical device firms to explore current research activities at the Institute.

The IEM fosters interdisciplinary research among members of the U of M’s Academic Health Center and the College of Science and Engineering. IEM includes more than 120 faculty members at the university, who collaborate around the broad themes to be covered in the conference.

IEM strives to be a world leader in applying engineering solutions to medical and health problems. It has two major goals, explains He. One is to “provide a platform to bring together faculty from different disciplines and foster collaboration.” The second goal is to promote collaborative work between IEM participants and the medical device industry.

The conference is one of the more visible ways IEM accomplishes this goal, but in fact it has other tactics. For example, IEM has four affiliated core facilities:

  • Medical Devices Center, which fosters medical device research and is developing a virtual prototyping approach to speed up medical device design.
  • Center for Neuroengineering, which bridges engineering and clinical neuroscience. The group is directed by Bin He, who also directs IEM.
  • Biopreservation Core Resource, which focuses on methods to preserve biological specimens.
  • Visible Heart Lab, which facilitates heart and organ research.

In addition to these facilities, IEM spurs collaboration among faculty by providing grants in the range of $25,000 – $75,000 dollars. Some of the grants support early pilot activities. Recent grants include funding for a dozen of faculty to combine talents to address cancer at the molecular and cellular level. Another group is developing nanotechnology for applications to clinical neurology. The grants help projects at the earliest phase, and also help researchers bring projects to a point where they can begin to seek much larger grants outside the university.

Recent media attention

IEM researchers are often in the news. Most recently, He and his team developed a method to use non-invasive sensors to allow a person to fly a model helicopter through an obstacle course using thought alone. The innovation should eventually enable people with disabilities to control prosthetics through thought rather than muscle motion. In just six weeks, the YouTube video of the thought-directed mini-copter has gained close to 400,000 views.

IEM was created in 2007. Ultimately, the Institute should help garner more national and international attention for the U’s innovative research projects, which, in turn, will spur more research to improve lives.

Reprinted with permission from Business @ U of M, a publication of the Office of the Vice President for Research.