CIMIT Science Grants Accelerate Applications of ENG Research

By Kate Fink

Catherine Klapperich
Catherine Klapperich

Mark Grinstaff
Mark Grinstaff

Assistant Professor Catherine Klapperich (MFG) and Associate Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME) have won grants that will help build bridges between their engineering research and clinical medicine.

The Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) awarded $5 million through its Science Grant program this year, selecting 28 multidisciplinary and multi-institutional teams in the Boston area, from 188 proposals. Individual awards ranged from $40,000 to $135,000.

“We are passionate about bringing innovation to medicine, and determined to identify medical research that can be developed relatively quickly,” said John Parrish, the executive director of CIMIT. “I am confident that projects like those developed by Boston University investigators will someday provide significant benefit to patients.”

Klapperich works on micro-fluidic devices that function like a lab on a chip to quickly diagnose sepsis, a dangerous bacterial infection of the blood. She will use the CIMIT Science grant to develop a specific version of this device that detects bacterial DNA in blood samples.

The clinical application would allow hospital personnel to test for sepsis more quickly and frequently in susceptible intensive care unit patients than the 12- or 24-hour testing intervals common today, said Klapperich. The device will also detect whether infecting bacteria are gram positive or negative which would help doctors figure out which drug to use against the infection. 
“In the case of sepsis, which antibiotic you give people is critical early on,” said Klapperich.

“We’re very pleased to continue our fruitful relationship with CIMIT,” she said. “We have a great relationship with them and we’re excited to get this project started.”

Grinstaff, working with principal investigator Yolanda Colson at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will work on a unique delivery mechanism for getting an anti-cancer drug to the lymph nodes to treat metastasized breast cancer. Grinstaff works on the materials science side of the project, constructing the delivery system for the drug, while Colson, a thoracic surgeon, brings clinical expertise with cancer and surgery to the collaboration.

Grinstaff also acts as a site miner for CIMIT, helping to facilitate interactions between engineers at BU’s Charles River campus and doctors at the MED campus to combine their expertise to develop unique solutions for challenges in patient care. Peter Bergethon and Gerald Denis, two BU investigators based at the medical school, also received CIMIT Science grants in this round of awards.

“These projects have real promise,” Grinstaff said, speaking about all the CIMIT Science grant recipients. “The science developed here could someday help a great many vulnerable patients.”

CIMIT is a non-profit consortium that focuses on development of new technological and scientific solutions for pressing heath care problems. Eleven Boston area hospitals and engineering schools are members of the consortium.

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