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Coulter Program funds three cutting-edge projects

Dean Loboa speaks in front of three gold banners reading Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence.

“The Coulter Translational Partnership Program is a shining example of what an institution such as ours can do with a collaborative atmosphere and the proper resources,” said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the College of Engineering and MU vice chancellor for strategic partnerships at Monday’s Coulter Program Awards reception. Photos by Shelby O’Keefe.

MU’s Coulter Translational Partnership Program provided world-class medical research with a financial boost on Monday.

The goal of the program is to bring engineers and clinicians together to develop novel solutions to pressing medical needs. As such, the three projects funded this year — a total of $302,000 — include faculty members from Mizzou Engineering and the School of Medicine.

“The Coulter Translational Partnership Program is a shining example of what an institution such as ours can do with a collaborative atmosphere and the proper resources,” said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the College of Engineering and MU vice chancellor for strategic partnerships. “MU is one of only a handful of institutions nationwide that can claim a medical school, a veterinary medicine college and a college of engineering on the same campus. Having such a world-class, interdisciplinary faculty across our schools and colleges promotes biomedical innovation in ways that cannot be achieved elsewhere.”

The program began as a five-year partnership between MU and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation in 2012, and at the time, it was one of just 15 such partnerships nationwide. After the partnership ended in 2017, MU extended the funding for five additional years through various grants and gifts.

Since 2012, the program has helped MU researchers generate more than $14.5 million in government grants and has led to the formation of 13 new companies, including four that have licensed a technology funded by the program.

“The University of Missouri is home to leading experts in all fields of engineering, medicine and business,” said Mark McIntosh, PhD, MU vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and economic development, and UM System vice president for research and economic development. “The Coulter Translational Partnership Program brings this expertise together with the goal of delivering practical solutions to pressing medical problems affecting our state, nation and the world.”

The Coulter Program one of several initiatives that showcase Mizzou’s strength in biomedical innovations. MU and the UM System both have named the Translational Precision Medicine Complex their top capital priority, and the upcoming facility will be a boon to research efforts similar to those funded by the Coulter Program — key precision medicine projects that will have a massive impact on healthcare in Missouri and beyond.

“The goals of the TPMC and the work of the Coulter Program are consistent in their mission of taking research from the lab and turning it into the types of products and services that can dramatically improve patients’ lives,” Loboa said.

The 2018 Coulter Program award recipients are (descriptions from the MU School of Medicine):

Alan Wright (left) of Roche Diagnostics and Coulter Program Principle Investigator and Co-Chair of the MU Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department Jinglu Tan pose with the Heartspeed Team (from left to right): Talissa Altes, Steven Van Doren and Robert Thomen.

Alan Wright (left) of Roche Diagnostics and Coulter Program Principle Investigator and Co-Chair of the MU Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department Jinglu Tan pose with the Heartspeed team (from left to right): Talissa Altes, Steven Van Doren and Robert Thomen.

HeartSpeed: Fast Cardiac MRIs with the Freedom to Breathe: Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging is used to detect and monitor cardiac disease and evaluate the heart’s anatomy and function. Cardiac MRI exams can last 45 to 90 minutes and require multiple 10- to 20-second breath holds by the patient. The procedure can be exhausting for patients, particularly frail patients with breathing difficulties who are unable to hold their breath. HeartSpeed addresses this need by using software to eliminate the need for patients to hold their breath. Shorter procedure times enable increased efficiency and lower costs, making HeartSpeed a win for both patients and health care providers.

  • Robert Thomen, Departments of Bioengineering and Radiology
  • Steven Van Doren, Department of Biochemistry
  • Talissa Altes, Department of Radiology
Alan Wright (left) of Roche Diagnostics and Coulter Program Principle Investigator and Co-Chair of the MU Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department Jinglu Tan pose with the T-Meter team (from left to right): Luis Polo-Parada and Maria Fidalgo. Not pictured: Liliana Garcia-Vargas.

Alan Wright (left) of Roche Diagnostics and Coulter Program Principle Investigator and Co-Chair of the MU Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department Jinglu Tan pose with the T-Meter team (from left to right): Luis Polo-Parada and Maria Fidalgo. Not pictured: Liliana Garcia-Vargas.

T-Meter: Sensitive, Low-cost Testosterone Testing at the Point of Care: The number of teens and adults in the U.S. who identify as transgender and gender-nonconforming is growing exponentially, leading to more patients presenting for care. However, individuals undergoing hormone therapy may only monitor their blood hormone levels one to two times a year, rather than the four to eight times a year necessary for optimal hormone therapy. The availability of an accurate, low-cost, testosterone test would also enable men who have low testosterone to easily have their levels checked. The researchers are developing a portable, low-cost device that can accurately measure testosterone levels in a single drop of blood, similar to a glucose strip test system.

  • Maria Fidalgo, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Luis Polo-Parada, Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology
  • Liliana Garcia-Vargas, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Alan Wright (left) of Roche Diagnostics and Coulter Program Principle Investigator and Co-Chair of the MU Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department Jinglu Tan pose with the Frozen Hearts team (from left to right): Mike A. Hill and Xu Han. Not pictured: Yuwen Zhang and William P. Fay.

Alan Wright (left) of Roche Diagnostics and Coulter Program Principle Investigator and Co-Chair of the MU Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department Jinglu Tan pose with the Frozen Hearts team (from left to right): Mike A. Hill and Xu Han. Not pictured: Yuwen Zhang and William P. Fay.

Frozen Hearts: Novel Cryopreservation Media for Cardiac Transplantation: In the U.S., approximately 2,000 patients die while waiting for a heart transplant each year, and another 1,000 patients become too ill for transplantation surgery — despite the fact that 6,000 transplantable hearts are harvested each year. This is largely because donated hearts can only be stored for a maximum of six hours. As a result of this short window, about half of transplantable hearts collected must be discarded. To increase the length of time donor hearts can remain viable for transplantation, the researchers are developing a new “nano-ice forming” cryopreservation medium, which would maintain the viability of donated hearts for days and possibly weeks.

  • Yuwen Zhang, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Xu Han, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Mike Hill, Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology
  • William Fay, Departments of Medicine and Medical Pharmacology and Physiology
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