BME Graduate Students Take Top Prizes at BU Translational Research Symposium


By Mark Dwortzan

BME graduate student Kyle Allison (center) and his first prize-winning poster at Boston University's third annual Translational Research Symposium.
BME graduate student Kyle Allison (center) and his first prize-winning poster at Boston University's third annual Translational Research Symposium.

PhD students in the Biomedical Engineering Department received all three poster session awards at Boston University’s third annual Translational Research Symposium, a gathering of researchers from across the campus who are engaged in efforts to transform innovative biomedical concepts into practical health care applications. Organized by the BU Clinical and Translational Science Institute (BU CTSI) and held at the BU Metcalf Trustees Center, the daylong symposium featured talks by BU College of Engineering and BU School of Medicine (BUSM) faculty and posters by 52 BU graduate students and postdoctoral fellows focused on clinically relevant biomedical research.

Honored for their exceptional scientific posters by a panel of nine judges representing the College of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Public Health and other BU administrative units, BME graduate students Kyle Allison, Ben Lakin and Kevin McHugh (tied with Charles Dumont, MD, BUSM Sections of Pulmonary and Computational Biomedicine, Department of Medicine) received first ($1,000), second ($500) and third ($250) prizes, respectively.

“The BME Department should be proud of their students’ accomplishments,” said BU CTSI Director and Associate Provost for Translational Research David M. Center, M.D. “The winners were chosen based on the quality of the science and its translational applicability.”

Allison, Lakin and McHugh were first authors on posters involving collaborations with researchers at BU, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.

Allison and his collaborators—Professor James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE) and Research Associate Mark Brynildsen (BME)—submitted a poster on the novel strategy they developed to eradicate antibiotic resistant bacterial infection. Combining a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides with simple sugars, such as glucose, mannitol and fructose, the researchers showed they were able to kill a variety of such bacteria, and improve chronic urinary tract infection in a mouse model.

Lakin and his research team—including Professor Mark W. Grinstaff (BME, MSE)—submitted their poster on an interdisciplinary study that provides experimental evidence predicting that a novel contrast agent can be injected locally during a CT scan to monitor changes in the biomechanical properties of cartilage. Their study could lead to improved diagnostics for osteoarthritis, the most common joint disorder, and for monitoring the impact of treatment on the disease.

McHugh and his research partners’ poster described a porous film they created that can be implanted in the eye to treat age-related macular degeneration disease, the leading cause of blindness in old age in the developed world. The film, which stimulates regeneration of tissue in the treatment area, shows great promise not only to treat macular degeneration but also to generate new tissues to reverse other degenerative diseases.

The symposium featured talks by BUSM and College of Engineering faculty members, including keynote speaker Collins, who spoke on “Translational Network Biology: Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology and Microbial Threats;” Assistant Professor Tyrone Porter (ME) on “Stimuli-Responsive Nanoparticles for Drug and Gene Delivery;” and Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) on “Automatically Specifying, Designing, and Assembling Biological Systems.”

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the BU CTSI seeks to speed the translation of medical innovations that improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and to share these innovations with other university-based clinical and translational science programs.