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Coulter Foundation awards announced

On August 31, the University of Missouri held an awards ceremony to announce the first round of funding to engineer-clinician research teams as part of the Wallace H. Coulter Translational Partnership Program. The University received a five-year grant of $5 million to be used as “bridge” funding to move innovative bioengineering research discoveries to the marketplace. Speaking at the ceremony were, right to left., Robert Tzou, interim associate dean of engineering and chairman of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department; Robert J. Churchill, dean of the MU School of Medicine; Jinglu Tan, chairman of the Department of Bioengineering; MU Chancellor Brady Deaton at the podium; and Jake Halliday, MU Coulter program director. Photo by Shane Epping

In June 2011, the University of Missouri learned its proposal to work with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation through its Transitional Partnership Award Program was approved. The accompanying five-year grant agreement provided MU with $5 million, funding intended to serve as a bridge between biomedical research innovations on the MU campus and their introductions into the marketplace. Research projects all are aimed at improving the areas of patient diagnostics, treatment and outcomes. Jinglu Tan, the James C. Dowell Professor and chairman of biological engineering, serves as the program’s principal investigator.

Teams of MU researchers  — consisting of an engineer and a physician — were invited to submit proposals for biomedical research projects of merit that satisfy an unfilled clinical need.

After intensive evaluation, the first bridge funding awards were announced a ceremony on Aug. 31. Jake Halliday, MU’s Coulter program director, said each project shows excellent market potential with tremendous benefit to patients. The Coulter funding will help advance them through the later stages of the translation process.

Funded engineer/clinician teams and their research projects

Biological Engineering Professor Li-Qun Gu and Michael Wang, MD, with the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, have developed a low-cost, non-invasive clinical screening test for monitoring lung cancer therapy using nanopore single-molecule sensors. The process also has potential for early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases.

Biological Engineering Professor Raghuraman Kannan and Gerald Arthur, MD, with the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, have invented a nanotechnology-based cancer detection kit to identify and quantify biomarkers for colorectal cancer, allowing for individualized chemotherapy treatments. It also can be used to aid in the treatment of other cancers.

Biological Engineering Professor Sheila Grant and Richard White, MD, with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, have designed a “nanograft” whereby a graft consisting of a combination of nanomaterials and acellular tissue result in improved mobility in knee surgery.

Biological Engineering Professor John Viator and Stephen Barnes, MD, Department of Surgery, have invented a device that uses laser-induced ultrasound to immediately determine burn depth for the purpose of appropriate treatment. Such precision will lower costs and decrease the time it takes a burn to heal.

Biological Engineering Professor Gang Yao and Judith Miles, MD, Department of Child Health, have developed a neurological test that measures a child’s pupil size changes in response to a short flash of light. This pupillary light reflex test is effective in the early identification of neurodevelopmental progress and disorders.

The University of Missouri is one of only 15 universities in the nation to receive funding as a Coulter partner.