News Release

Four UC San Diego Physician-engineer teams receive the 2016 Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine awards

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San Diego, Calif., Oct. 12, 2016 - Four physician-engineer teams from UC San Diego have been selected to receive the 2016 Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) awards, which were created to bring engineers and clinicians together to develop innovative technology solutions to challenging problems in medical care. GEM is a program of UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) and UC San Diego Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM).

“We are excited to support these impressive projects, which exemplify disruptive innovations to make a difference in the lives of our patients,” said Gary S. Firestein, MD, director of the ACTRI and dean and associate vice chancellor of translational medicine at UC San Diego.

This year’s projects center on developing better ways to monitor patient sleep during recovery, improved treatments for pelvic floor disorders, safer and less expensive instrumentation for internally viewing organs, and methods for obtaining clinical images more quickly.

Each project team includes clinicians and engineers from UC San Diego Health Sciences departments and UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Teams will be awarded $60k each for projects lasting 12 to 18 months.

Through the GEM program, clinicians in a specific area of medicine first identify an unmet need in patient care and then work with a team of engineers to solve the problem and move the technology to the clinic.

“GEM combines UC San Diego’s clinical knowledge and engineering expertise to provide cutting edge technological answers to some of medicine’s most challenging questions,” said Deborah Spector, PhD, chair of the GEM Committee and director of the ACTRI Translational Research Alliance.


Faster clinical images from Single Photon Emission Tomography 

Bhaskar Rao, PhD, a professor of electrical and computer engineering; Sebastian Obrzut, MD, a radiologist; and Bongyong Song, PhD, an assistant professor in radiation medicine and applied sciences, are developing a method to reduce the time it takes to acquire clinical images using Single Photon Emission Tomography (SPECT), a nuclear imaging technique that employs gamma rays. In SPECT, clinical images are reconstructed from acquired projection images of radioactivity distribution onto detectors at various angles. Due to gamma camera inefficiencies, SPECT images are corrupted by noise and require either longer imaging time or more injected radiopharmaceutical dose for the patient. This project evaluates Compressed Sensing image acquisition and a processing algorithm for SPECT to significantly reduce the time it takes to acquire an image.


3D-printable, disposable endoscope

Frank Talke, PhD, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Thomas Savides, MD, a gastroenterologist and the Chief Experience Officer, are designing and manufacturing a 3D-printable and disposable endoscope that is biocompatible and programmable. Endoscopes are instruments used to view an inner part of the body. Difficulties in disinfecting some types of endoscopes have led to bacterial infections in patients. 3D printing enables faster manufacturing time and is less costly, and the disposability of the innovation reduces bacterial concerns.


Treating pelvic floor disorders

Karen Christman, PhD, a professor of bioengineering, and Marianna Alperin, MD, MAS, an assistant professor of reproductive medicine, are developing an injectable biomaterial scaffold and minimally invasive delivery system to treat pelvic floor disorders. These disorders, largely the result of maternal childbirth trauma, are debilitating and costly conditions that affect a quarter of the U.S. female population.  The injected material sets into a scaffold that helps regenerate and heal damaged muscles post-vaginal delivery, preventing pelvic floor disorders.


Battery-free, wireless wearable sensors for sleep monitoring

Sheng Xu, PhD, an assistant professor of nanoengineering, and Robert Owens, MD, a sleep medicine specialist, are developing battery-free wireless wearable sensors for sleep monitoring. Many patients and most physicians believe a good night’s sleep is an essential part of recovery. Sleep can be characterized by measuring local field potentials on the body to capture heart rate, eye movement, and brain activity, but the present methods are cumbersome and uncomfortable. This project centers on designing and fabricating a low-profile minimally invasive wearable patch for sleep monitoring to unobtrusively check sleep quality, providing critical capabilities in collecting unbiased data for sleep studies.


Read the project abstracts for the 2016 GEM awardees

Read the request for proposals announcement for the 2017 GEM awards, Phase I


Institute of Engineering in Medicine

The Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM) at UC San Diego has over 130 outstanding faculty from UC San Diego’s Schools of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Jacobs School of Engineering, all sharing the objective of translating creative ideas into clinical medicine and novel products that will transform patient care and improve their health and well-being.


About UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute

UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) is part of a national Clinical and Translational Science Award consortium, led by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Science. Established in 2010, ACTRI provides infrastructure and support for basic, translational and clinical research throughout the San Diego region to bring discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside, and facilitates training and education of the next generation of researchers. ACTRI carries out its activities in collaboration with institutional and corporate partners and currently has more than 1,200 members.


Story written by:
Patti Wieser
Communications Director
Altman Clinical & Translational Research Institute (ACTRI)
University of California San Diego

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering

Liezel Labios
Jacobs School of Engineering

Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation