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Coulter Program continues unique support of biomedical research

Photo of Dean Loboa speaking to audience

“One of the College of Engineering’s biggest strengths is the ability of its brilliant faculty to work with health professionals to produce groundbreaking biomedical innovations,” said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of engineering and professor of bioengineering at MU, at the Coulter Program Awards ceremony. Photo by Justin Kelley/University of Missouri Health Care

The University of Missouri College of Engineering and School of Medicine received approximately $500,000 in funding for cutting-edge biomedical innovations from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and an additional $4 million investment from MU to continue the program.

The Coulter Translational Partnership Program began at MU in 2012 on a five-year contract. After the partnership ends in 2017, MU will extend the program for five more years, awarding an additional $800,000 yearly for a total of $4 million, according to Mark McIntosh, interim vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and economic development at MU. The goal is to raise an additional $200,000 from outside grants and gifts to bring the total to $1 million in research awards annually.

“One of the College of Engineering’s biggest strengths is the ability of its brilliant faculty to work with health professionals to produce groundbreaking biomedical innovations,” said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of engineering and professor of bioengineering at MU, at a ceremony held Oct. 11. “Our collaborative efforts have led to vital breakthroughs in the areas of eldercare, disease detection, tissue transplantation, surgical techniques and many, many more. Our continued collaborative efforts are sure to yield even more life-changing research results in the years to come.”

The University of Missouri is one of just 16 colleges and universities nationwide with a partnership with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. The program has helped generate more than $11 million in governmental grants and has a strong track record of aiding research that leads to startup companies.

“The program truly is a testament to the depth and breadth of research performed at the University of Missouri,” McIntosh said.

The projects chosen to receive Coulter program funding were (descriptions provided by the MU Health System):

  • OsteoGel: Injectable Osteomodulatory Hydrogels for Vertebral Compression Fracture Repair: Bret Ulery, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Christina Goldstein, assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, are developing a novel biomaterial to treat vertebral compression fractures in patients with osteoporosis. Their solution uses hydrogels that have been modified to mimic normal bone biomechanics and provide mechanical support while promoting bone healing for the patient.
  • Corneal Cryopreservation and Storage System: Xu Han, assistant research professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Frederick Fraunfelder, Roy E. Mason and Elizabeth Patee Mason Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, have developed an inexpensive and disposable storage device that protects corneal tissue from damage caused by extracellular ice formation during the freezing process. This storage method has the potential to increase the amount of corneal transplants performed each year, especially in countries that must rely on imported corneas and are unable to use them due to the current 14-day storage limit, which are difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities due to the current 14-day storage limit.
  • Near Infrared Navigation System (NAVI) for Image-guided Surgery in Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting: Raghuraman Kannan, associate professor in the Department of Radiology and the Department of Bioengineering, and Ajit Tharakan, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, developed a portable, low cost near-infrared fluorescent system (NAVI) that enables real-time visualization of blood flow during coronary artery bypass grafting surgeries. The system makes it easier to know when blood flow is restored in the newly grafted artery prior to closing the patient’s chest.
  • ENSUR: A Novel Diagnostic Prenatal Genetic Test: Raghuraman Kannan, associate professor in the Department of Radiology and the Department of Bioengineering, and Danny Schust, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, have developed a novel diagnostic prenatal genetic test through a proprietary method for selective isolation of fetal cells collected from a vaginal swab. The fetal cells collected in this non-invasive manner contain the complete genetic profile of the fetus.
  • Down the Hatch Solutions: Filiz Bunyak Ersoy, assistant research professor in the Department of Computer Science; Zhihai (Henry) He, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Teresa Lever, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, are developing a novel clinical tool to assess laryngeal adductor reflex (LAR) in patients with dysphagia, a swallowing impairment that can come as a result of stroke, neurologic diseases, cancer and congenital abnormalities. The tool enables clinicians to visualize the entire larynx during endoscopic LAR testing and permits automated quantification of several novel outcome measures from video-recorded LAR responses.