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ENG biomedical engineering department wins $2.9 million grant

Coulter Foundation grant aims to take research from “bench to bedside”

Kenneth Lutchen. Photo by Albert L'Etoile

The College of Engineering’s department of biomedical engineering recently was awarded a $2.9 million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation to bring biomedical technology from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside. The Translational Research Partnership Award is designed to facilitate joint efforts between BU’s biomedical engineers, the Coulter Foundation, and medical researchers that is aimed at moving promising technologies to clinical application.

“The Coulter Foundation conducted a rigorous review, and we are gratified to have the quality of our basic and applied research programs recognized with this award,” says Professor Kenneth Lutchen, chairman of the biomedical engineering (BME) department. “It will advance our efforts to bring promising innovations from the laboratory to the patient.”

Across the nation, 63 institutions applied for the grant. The ENG biomedical engineering department is one of only nine chosen to receive the award, each of which is eligible to win an endowment of an undetermined amount by demonstrating that it has established the best process for achieving its goal of practical application of research.

The award enables the biomedical engineering department to form a working partnership with the Coulter Foundation to promote, develop, and support translational research by funding promising research projects, increasing and supporting effective collaborations between biomedical engineers and clinicians and increasing awareness of the importance of moving promising technologies to clinical application. The goal of the partnership is to focus on outcomes that improve patient care.

The grant of $580,000 a year for five years, Lutchen says, will be divided among four or five BU projects each year, which will compete for the funding. Each project is required to have two lead investigators, one from the BME department and a clinician, such as a doctor or a researcher from the Boston University Medical Center.

While many collaborations already exist between BME faculty and Medical Campus researchers, Lutchen says, the grant will help foster new connections and help see projects through to development and practical application. “This [grant] is meant to really leverage the foundation we’ve built with world-class basic research and the tremendous cross-talk opportunities at the [Boston University] medical school,” he says.

But making connections is only the beginning of the process for these projects. The oversight committee making the awards to the individual projects will include people from the Charles River and Medical Campuses, experts in technology, business development, and industry. “We’ll take the best ideas and projects,” says Lutchen, “and help move them along the innovation pipeline so ideas really make it all the way to the patient’s bedside.”

Since the Coulter Foundation’s focus is accelerating innovation, part of the grant application process included a site visit, during which BME faculty showcased their research projects for foundation officials. They demonstrated such programs as a new design of a polymer to enhance drug delivery and wound healing, optics technology used for early detection of cancer, new technologies to identify and switch specific gene systems on and off and to detect early signs of glaucoma, and even tissue engineering.