News Release

Four Physician-Engineer Teams Funded by UC San Diego

San Diego, CA, August 25, 2017 -- Four physician-engineer teams from UC San Diego have been selected to receive the 2017 Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) awards. GEM, an initiative of UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) and UC San Diego Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM), brings engineers and clinicians together to develop innovative technologies that can be applied to solving challenging problems in medical care. This year’s projects address challenges in the areas of cardiology, ophthalmology, radiology, and reproductive medicine.

“GEM truly bridges medicine and engineering to find unique solutions to pressing medical concerns,” said Deborah Spector, PhD, chair of the GEM Committee and director of the ACTRI Translational Research Alliance. “We are excited about this year’s outstanding projects, selected for their creativity and potential to improve health.”

Teams include clinicians and engineers from UC San Diego Health departments and the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Each team will receive $60k to support projects lasting 12 to 18 months.

James Friend, PhD, a professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Alexander Norbash, MD, a professor and department chair of radiology, are developing a new, minimally invasive intervention to treat cerebral aneurysms. The intervention is a novel steerable microcatheter that would reduce the time to navigate an intracranial aneurysm, improving the success rate for recovery and reducing costs of care.

Drew Hall, PhD, an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering; Louise Laurent, MD, PhD, an associate professor in reproductive medicine; and Yu-Hwa Lo, PhD, a professor in electrical and computer engineering, are developing nanosensors to detect placental dysfunction early in pregnancy. These nanosensors measure chemical substances in maternal blood that can help doctors identify patients who are at risk for pregnancy complications, enabling strategies for early treatment.

Frank Talke, PhD, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Robert Weinreb, MD, a professor and department chair of ophthalmology, are optimizing the design of a miniaturized sensor to measure intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma and keratoprosthesis (K-Pro), an artificial replacement for a section of the cornea. The sensor is unique in that it uses the principal of interferometry, which uses light waves to determine distance. The researchers envision incorporating the sensor into a K-Pro or an intraocular lens.

Anna Narezkina, MD, a cardiologist and assistant clinical professor in medicine, and Elliott R. McVeigh, PhD, a professor in the department of bioengineering, are developing a non-invasive computer tomography imaging method for early detection of myocardial dysfunction caused by anthracyclines, a class of chemotherapeutic agents. Early detection and treatment of anthracycline-induced heart toxicity is crucial for successful preservation of heart function.

View the 2017 GEM abstracts.

The GEM Committee includes: Gary S. Firestein, MD, ACTRI director; Deborah Spector, PhD, GEM committee chair; Shu Chien, MD, PhD, IEM director; and Priya Bisarya, bioengineering student.

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 1,400 members.

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Patricia Wieser