Assistant Professor Carlos Aguilar has been selected to receive the 2018 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award from the 3M Corporation. The 3M award recognizes outstanding faculty on the basis of research, experience, teaching and academic leadership. The award was created over twenty-five years ago by 3M’s Technical Community in partnership with the 3Mgives program to invest in individuals who will lead university teaching and research programs in the future.
Aguilar directs the Nano-Omic-Bio-Engineering-Lab (NOBEL) at U-M Biomedical Engineering. His research develops, optimizes and applies innovative technologies such as integrative genomic assays and high-throughput sequencing, micro/nanofabricated devices, genome editing and computational modeling to their primary area of focus, skeletal muscle.
Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Professor Ellen Arruda, has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
Election to National Academy of Engineering membership is one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer. Members have distinguished themselves in business or academic management, in technical positions, as university faculty, or as leaders in government or private engineering organizations. Only 2,530 individuals worldwide are NAE members, including 106 in this year’s class.
A professor of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Professor Ellen Arruda was cited for “pioneering research in polymer and tissue mechanics and their application in innovative commercial products.” She joined the College’s faculty as an assistant professor in 1992. She earned her bachelor’s degree (with Honors) and master’s degree both from Penn State, and her Ph.D. from MIT.
Professor Arruda teaches and conducts research in the areas of theoretical and experimental mechanics of macromolecular materials, including polymers, elastomers, composites, soft tissues and proteins, and in tissue engineering of soft tissues and tissue interfaces.
Her research programs include the experimental characterization, and analytical and computational modeling of soft materials, including native and engineered tissues. Her distinctions include the 2012 Excellence in Research Award by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the cover article in Tissue Engineering, in January of 2012. She holds three patents for this work. She is president and a fellow of the American Academy of Mechanics and a fellow and former president of the Society of Engineering Science.
U-M Biomedical Engineering graduate design team SpecOp took home second place in the 2016 BMEidea competition. The team, comprised of recent U-M BME masters’ graduates Kyle Bettinger, Kai Cortright, Kayla Curtis, Scott Harber, and MS candidate Danika Rodrigues, received their award at the MD&M Medical Device Trade Show & Competition in New York City on June 14, 2016. Their creation, called Circulum, is a device that provides full circumferential support to the vaginal wall in order to prevent prolapse during medical procedures. This type of prolapse is an increasingly common occurrence especially in cases of obesity or multiparity. The success of the Circulum device can help clinicians make better diagnoses for diseases including cervical and endometrial cancer by allowing them better view and access to the cervix. As the second place winner, the SpecOp team will receive $5,000 to help further research and develop their device.
Three BME students won prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships in 2016. They include PhD students Chrono Nu from Cindy Chestek’s Cortical Neural Prosthetics Lab and Peter Washabaugh from Chandramouli Krishnan’s Neuromuscular and Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory, as well as master’s student Makeda Stephenson from Scott Hollister’s Scaffold Tissue Engineering Group.
Nu, who has also been awarded a Department of Defense (DoD) National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, is using data from cortical recording systems to conduct computational analyses of brain activity in primates, such as decoding motor-related neurological signals. Washabaugh is working to design robotic devices for use in physical therapy and to explore the neuromuscular changes associated with these therapies. Stephenson is developing functional architectures for tissue engineering scaffolds.
PreDxion: Reimagining the treatment of organ failure in the ICU
BME medical product development graduate student Walker McHugh (MSE ’17) hopes the device he’s helping bring to market will transform treatment in the intensive care unit.
Called MicroKine, the microfluidic sensor enables doctors to determine quickly and from only a drop of a patient’s blood which cytokines are causing a hyperinflammatory state that can lead to organ failure.
After working on the product and the science behind it for more than a year in the lab of his advisor, Pediatric Critical Care Professor Timothy Cornell, MD, McHugh proposed using the MBC to explore the path to commercialization.
Cornell agreed, and McHugh teamed up with business student Caroline Landau (MBA '16) to form a company, PreDxion, based on an initial application for the device: monitoring cancer patients receiving chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy. CAR-T uses a patient’s own immune cells which have been genetically engineered to recognize a specific protein on tumor cells. Once reintroduced into the body, these cells seek out and destroy the patient’s cancer.
Though this treatment has had promising results, a potential downside is that a patient’s immune system can overreact, producing a flood of inflammatory cytokines which can quickly lead to organ failure. MicroKine can determine in just 30 minutes which cytokines are out of the normal range, allowing doctors to prescribe the specific anti-cytokine medication that matches those elevated in the patient.
The technology has already achieved proof of concept. In late 2014, Cornell’s lab received an emergency use exemption from the FDA to use the device in a patient experiencing cytokine release syndrome in late 2014. The case was a success, and the team began envisioning a larger impact.
That’s what impelled McHugh to throw his hat into the MBC. He hoped to use its structure – the deadlines, the coaching from Zell Lurie, and partnership with a business student – to explore potential markets, walk through financial models, and flesh out a business plan.
Their work has paid off; the team won $30,000 in the MBC, which they will add to awards from The Coulter Foundation and U-M’s Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Program, to continue down the path to commercialization. One of the challenges, says McHugh, is that the product is in a new, niche area of the companion diagnostic space, so the FDA and potential drug-company partners need to assess how to approach it. Ultimately, PreDxion hopes it can structure a pharmaceutical-company partnership that could open the door to cooperative clinical trials and marketing efforts.
McHugh is hopeful that the technology will one day be a game-changer. “Things haven’t changed much over the last 25 years in terms of how we treat organ failure in the ICU,” he says. “We’re are still largely limited to supporting the failing organs. By targeting the inflammatory processes that are actually driving that dysfunction, we hope MicroKine will bring personalized medicine to the ICU.”
Other contributors to MicroKine include Professor Katsuo Kurabayashi and postdoc Pengyu Chen.
The Michigan Business Challenge (MBC) is a campus-wide competition where student teams have the opportunity to develop a business plan, receive mentoring from the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, and win cash prizes to develop their business.
Project MESA: Bringing safety and dignity to mobile gynecological exams
Taking fourth place in the MBC social impact category is a team from M-HEAL (Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives), the U-M student-run organization that brings biomedical engineering to global health work.
The team, which includes several BME undergraduates, used the competition to evaluate its plans to scale up work on a portable gynecological exam table for use by mobile health workers traveling to remote villages.
Called Project MESA, the team has been working with partner clinics and NGOs in Nicaragua since 2010 on iterative designs for the table. They hoped to use the MBC to test their assumptions about producing and distributing the table on a larger scale to make a bigger impact on healthcare delivery.
Project MESA’s business lead, Katherine Chen, says the coaching was invaluable in helping these mostly engineering students think more critically about issues such as customer preferences, pricing strategies, and business models. “Originally, we designed the product to be produced in the U.S. with the idea that it should be repairable with locally available materials,” she says. “But through customer discovery, we learned that most clinics don’t have the resources to do repairs, so we’ve decided to design the table to be more durable in the first place. In addition, we assumed that a distribution channel in Nicaragua would be hard to manage, but the MBC judges encouraged us to explore that option.”
With $1,200 in prize money from the MBC, the team returns to Nicaragua in May to, among other things, talk with local machinists and distributors; delve into how clinics make their purchasing decisions; assess potential market size; develop new partnerships; and solicit feedback on the newest iterations of the table, which better address durability, portability, aesthetics, and patient positioning.
Chen says the MBC is a great resource for BME design students. “Developing the business plan really helps you define your end goal and determine if it’s financially and logistically feasible,” she says. “It helps you gain an even stronger sense of direction for your design.”
Project MESA’s co-lead is BME student Erik Thomas; other members include: Maya Ben-Efraim, Val Coldren, Bansili Desai, Sabrina Deutsch, Samantha Fox, Hannah Heberle-Rose, Steven Houtschilt, Christina Khouri, Jaime Landsman, Lillian Lantis, Jennifer Lee, Siri Manam, Andrea Mathew, Keely Meyers, Kyle Morrison, Molly Munsell,Madhu Parigi, Monica Patel, Maddie Price, Bharathi Ramachandran, Jen Spiegel, Alejandra Vaquiro Valencia,Shreya Wadwhani, Eldy Zuniga.