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UC San Diego Engineer Talks Tech with Congressional Staff in Washington, D.C.

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From left: Patrick Mercier, electrical engineering professor at UC San Diego, and Angela Diaz, Executive Director of Government Research Relations at UC San Diego

San Diego, Calif., May 19, 2017 -- In the wake of the March for Science, scientists and science supporters worldwide are actively seeking ways to connect and engage with their political representatives, in hopes of bridging the gap between science and public policy.

Patrick Mercier, an electrical engineering professor at UC San Diego, got the chance to do just that at an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He met with staff members working for representatives for San Diego County and for California Senator Dianne Feinstein. He also showcased research projects conducted under the umbrella of the Center for Wearable Sensors at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

The event was the BioMedical Technology Exhibition hosted by the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) in partnership with the Congressional Research and Development Caucus and the Congressional Robotics Caucus. Mercier was among a group of researchers to present their cutting-edge technologies to Congressional staff in the U.S. House of Representatives. The event took place on May 5, 2017. 

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Mercier discusses NIH-funded research with Congressional staffers

Researchers from several universities and institutions provided live demonstrations of their federally-funded biomedical engineering devices and technologies that have the potential to revolutionize access to health care. These researchers also participated in 18 meetings with Congressional staff, facilitated by AIMBE — the first step in starting a dialog and becoming a trusted advisor to their lawmakers.

At the exhibition, Mercier showcased several technologies that he, along with nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang, developed at UC San Diego: a temporary tattoo that monitors blood alcohol levels from sweat; a “Tricorder-like” device that can be worn on the chest to simultaneously measure heart rate and lactate levels; and MouthSense, which is a mouth guard sensor that monitors biomarkers in saliva such as lactate, cortisol and uric acid. These technologies demonstrate how UC San Diego researchers are developing wearable devices that can be seamlessly integrated into everyday life to provide continuous, non-invasive and real-time health monitoring. 

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Mercier demonstrates placement of a temporary tattoo alcohol biosensor

“All staff members, particularly those in our local offices were very enthusiastic about the technology we’ve developed and are encouraged that investment in NIH research leads to new and interesting devices that can potentially help improve healthcare and lower costs,” Mercier said. Such investment, he said, facilitates commercialization of innovative, early-stage technologies such as MouthSense, which Mercier and Wang spun off as a startup.

Mercier met with a variety of Congressional staff members, including those from the offices of San Diego county Congress members Scott Peters, Darrell Issa and Susan Davis, as well as the office of California Senator Feinstein.

“It was nice to personally explain to these offices that funding NIH (and other scientific research agencies like NSF) has not only a local financial impact, but also a possibility to have a long term impact on healthcare in general. The timing of this event was perfect, as congress just passed an omnibus bill to increase NIH funding, which is now being looked at by the Senate.”

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Mercier with Krishna Kandarpa, Director of Research Sciences & Strategic Divisions at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

Here’s a list of other technologies showcased at AIMBE’s BioMedical Technology Exhibition:

- Smart glasses that adjust prescription based on where you are looking (University of Utah)

- MobiLab: Cell phone-based rapid chlamydia test (Johns Hopkins University)

- Robotic cane (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)

- Unobtrusive ultrasound system for blood pressure measurement (MIT)

- MRI compatible robotics (Children’s National Health System)

- LASER treatment of burns and traumatic scars (Harvard University and Miami Dermatology and Laser)

- Real-time surgical guidance in neck surgery using imaging (Vanderbilt University)

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Liezel Labios
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-246-1124
llabios@ucsd.edu

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