BU, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft Form Alliance to Accelerate Biomedical Innovation


Seeking to accelerate the delivery of biomedical engineering advances to the medical care of patients, Boston University and its College of Engineering are joining the German research and development organization Fraunhofer Gesellschaft to create the Boston University-Fraunhofer Alliance for Medical Devices, Instrumentation and Diagnostics. BU and Munich-based Fraunhofer will jointly fund the five-year, $5 million initiative.

Combining the innovation and translational technology development experience of Boston University and Fraunhofer, the alliance will allow for the accelerated translation of advanced biomedical research into products that can be manufactured and used in clinical applications. The alliance will leverage the most promising research innovations in labs throughout Boston University, particularly in its College of Engineering, said Andre Sharon, a BU engineering professor and director of the BU-based Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation.

Boston University Provost David K. Campbell said, “Boston University has enjoyed a long and productive collaboration with Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, and this alliance will raise that collaboration to the next level.”

Hans-Jörg Bullinger, president of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest applied R&D organization, noted, “Based on Professor Sharon’s outstanding track record and the excellent results from our long-standing collaboration with Boston University, we are confident that this initiative will be very successful and will lead to the development of new medical technologies.”

Sharon said, “The alliance will leverage other independently funded research activities at Boston University as a continuous source of medically relevant innovations. In conjunction with Fraunhofer, the selected research will be efficiently developed into deployable technologies in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner.”

The alliance seeks to take advantage of the two institutions’ respective strengths. Advanced biomedical engineering research being conducted throughout BU’s College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences, and Medical School generally proceeds to the laboratory bench level. Fraunhofer hopes to take these innovations and convert them into working medical devices and instruments that can be licensed to existing companies or created by new, spin-off ventures.

The alliance is expected to use another recently funded initiative as a wellspring. Last year, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation awarded a $4.9 million grant to Boston University to enhance collaboration between researchers in Biomedical Engineering, and clinicians and researchers at the BU Medical School. The Coulter program shares the goal of accelerating translation of biomedical innovations to patient care.

“This alliance with Fraunhofer will add fuel to our translational research program in biomedical engineering,” said BU College of Engineering Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen. “Indeed, throughout the College are world-class and top-ranked faculty working at the interface of engineering and medicine, and this initiative will further accelerate our most promising research in this area so improved medical care can be delivered to patients as soon as possible.”

“The BU-Fraunhofer Alliance for Medical Instrumentation, Devices and Diagnostics embodies, amplifies and lends cohesion to some of the best biomedical research in physics, chemistry and engineering on Boston University’s Charles River Campus,” said Engineering Professor Charles DeLisi. “Along with clinical colleagues the participating faculty are poised to make important contributions to research and translational medicine.”

Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is also very active in biomedical research. Current activities include plant-based vaccine development, medical imaging, array-based diagnostics, surgical micro-tools development, and other novel devices and instrumentation. 

The Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation was established at Boston University in 1994. Working with BU faculty, students and international interns, the Center scales up basic research into advanced industrial technologies that meet the needs of client companies. Clients represent a range of industries both locally and globally.

Among the promising innovations under consideration for initial support by the alliance are efforts to create disposable diagnostic chips that can detect disease at the molecular level, an optically guided colon cancer detection and treatment system, and an array-based medical diagnostic tool.