New Biomedical Engineering Initiative Will Develop Groundbreaking Medical Devices, Boost Local Industry

Launch is made possible by $3 million Oishei Foundation grant

Release Date: September 17, 2008 This content is archived.


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Deans Michael E. Cain (left) and Harvey G. Stenger Jr. (right) talk with Martin J. Berardi, president of Moog Medical Devices Group, following the announcement that UB will establish a Department of Biomedical Engineering.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo announced today the establishment of a Department of Biomedical Engineering that will focus on development of groundbreaking medical devices and therapies addressing society's most pressing health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

The new department's research will advance and support Western New York's already very strong medical device industry by spinning off new medical technologies and businesses and providing a very talented pool of graduates from new biomedical engineering degree programs planned by UB.

Launch of the new department is made possible by a $3 million grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation, which requires UB to raise $1 million for the new department from additional funding sources in 2009.

Biomedical engineering is a relatively new area of research that applies engineering techniques to the medical field. The new UB department is a critical component for the success of Western New York's emerging life-sciences industry and will boost UB's efforts to significantly increase the already substantial economic impact of its research activities, according to UB President John B. Simpson.

UB's new focus on biomedical engineering was praised and supported by several Western New York biomedical companies, including AirSep, Applied Sciences Group, Cognigen, Gaymar, Greatbatch, Invitrogen, Medtech, Reichert, SmartPill, Virtual Scopics and Moog, which launched a medical devices unit in 2006.

"Moog Medical Devices already has significantly benefited from partnering with UB researchers as we explore and develop innovative products," said Martin J. Berardi, president of Moog Medical Devices Group. "The new UB bioengineering program will help Moog grow its medical devices unit by

providing the company with a steady stream of new ideas and innovations, as well as a pipeline of talented biomedical engineers who graduate from UB."

Robert Gioia, president of the Oishei Foundation, said the foundation's grant was made in recognition of the prominent role UB plays in improving the quality of life in Western New York, in collaboration with the local medical community and industry.

"The research of UB's Department of Biomedical Engineering will advance medical care and treatment throughout our region while helping to build a thriving life-sciences industry in Buffalo," Gioia said.

Creating the new department was the vision of UB Provost Satish K. Tripathi, Ph.D. According to Tripathi, the new department, a joint venture between the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was the logical result of the longstanding, productive collaborations between researchers at both UB schools.

"From the first battery-operated implantable pacemaker to minimally invasive surgical techniques for strokes, researchers at UB for decades have pioneered biomedical engineering advances that have contributed to the region's economic development and enhanced the health care of its citizens," Tripathi said.

Harvey G. Stenger Jr., Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said the new department will foster much more collaboration between UB engineering and medical faculty. The UB researchers will focus on cell and tissue engineering, creation of biomedical sensors and diagnostics, design of new medical imaging technologies and development of devices that allow for continuous monitoring and early detection of disease symptoms.

"The number of biomedical engineering programs nationwide is still small," Stenger said. "The new department will enable UB to compete for top faculty, students and research funding with other major research universities such as Michigan, Johns Hopkins, MIT and Stanford.

"The new department will provide local industry with much needed, highly skilled biomedical engineers," he added. "According to the Department of Labor, the need for biomedical engineers will increase by 31 percent by 2010."

Michael E. Cain, M.D., dean of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said by innovating cutting-edge devices for diagnosis and treatment in Western New York, research generated by the new department will directly improve the quality and cost of health care in the region.

"All these new devices and procedures have allowed things to be done faster, easier and sometimes less invasively, which in the end lowers health-care costs," he said.

The Oishei gift will allow for the establishment of a department headed by an internationally recognized chair and approximately eight full-time faculty and 20 affiliated faculty from other

departments, as well as from UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. Recruitment of high-caliber entrepreneurial scientists such as Esther Takeuchi, who came to UB from Greatbatch in 2007, will be a priority. The renowned inventor of the tiny batteries used in implantable cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators and other medical devices, Takeuchi often is cited as the woman awarded the most patents in the U.S.

The new department also will help further the goals of the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (CAT) funded by the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Academic Research.

The new department advances several of the UB 2020 strategic strengths, including "Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan," "Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics" and "Integrated Nanostructured Systems."

The John R. Oishei Foundation strives to be a catalyst for change to enhance economic vitality and the quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region. The foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corporation.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system, and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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