September 2008: Special Edition
One of the first actions taken by Dr. Leslie A Geddes when he arrived at Purdue to lead the new research center in 1974 was to change the way intellectual property was processed and patented providing incentivess researchers to develop solutions and to departments to support those efforts. Combined with the ability of Dr. Geddes and the original research team to challenge students academically and professionally, this resulted in numerous advances and products – particularly in the field of implantable cardiovascular devices – and in Purdue being recognized for its creativity and biomedial engineering innovations, before there was even a formal program in place.
The research center grew to become the Hillenbrand Biomedical Engineering Center, and then in 1998, the the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the first new Purdue engineering department in more than 40 years. Subsequently, with generous private contributions, the department became the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, the first named school within the College of Engineering at Purdue.
From its inception, biomedical engineering at Purdue was multidisciplinary, with faculty and students from mechanical, electrical, and other engineering departments. This expanded over time to include the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, and other academic units at Purdue, as well as the Indiana University School of Medicine. Today, the school has a diverse faculty that includes members from six Purdue Colleges: Agriculture, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Pharmacy, Science, and Veterinary Medicine. This academic diversity provides an expanding array of expertise and capabilities to meet the challenges of a new decade.
Combined with a strong and growing alumni base, the support of the State of Indiana, and the generous support of the Whitaker Foundation, the Weldon School was able to construct a 91,000 square-feet, state-of-the-art research and education facility in 2006. This public-private venture broke the mold for academic facilities, and also serves as the academic gateway to Purdue’s translational Discovery Park.
Strategically located just across the street from Birck Nanotechnology Center, the Bindley Bioscience Center, and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, the building’s location facilitates research interactions between faculty, staff, and students in the biomedical field. The entire first floor is dedicated to hands-on and experiential learning through a unique mix of highly flexible classrooms and instructional laboratories. The second and third floors as well as the basement feature state-of-the-art wet laboratory, prototype design, and specialized measurements facilities, as well as ample areas for interactions and meetings. This unique facility provides unprecedented opportunities for truly collaborative education, research, and technology transfer.
Named the Martin C. Jischke Hall of Biomedical Engineering in 2007, the upcoming formal investiture honors the President Emeritus for his outstanding support of biomedical engineering at Purdue. It was under his leadership that the first decade of accomplishments saw not only the creation of the department, but the growth of that department into the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and laid the foundation for our next decade of achievement.
With a state-of-the-art facility, Purdue recruited a growing cadre of the best and brightest faculty and staff members to develop a research and educational program that would attract the best of students. Twenty core faculty and ten research and instructional staff members are now a part of the school, providing significant educational depth and scientific expertise in biomaterials, drug-delivery systems, implantable neural devices, molecular imaging, and bionanotechnology. Nearly half of the Weldon School’s faculty, staff, and students are women. An active mentorship program within the school has resulted in 100% faculty promotion success to date, and has been also proven a successful model for research program development.
Historically, a significant fraction of the research funding of Purdue biomedical engineering faculty members is through company partnerships, reflecting the strong academic-industrial ties and a focus on applications-oriented research. Recently, Cook Group, Inc. endowed a professorship in honor of Leslie Geddes to mark their long-standing research relationship.
Medical products and procedures derived from Purdue inventions have had a significant impact on patient care and quality of life, and have catalyzed growth in a number of companies, creating synergistic academic-industrial partnerships. A key example is the xenogeneic bioscaffold technology, or SIS technology, manufactured by Indiana’s own Cook Biotech and DePuy and sold in the clinical market for a variety of wound care and surgical applications.
Another creative partnership with GE Healthcare has solidified Weldon’s impact on international healthcare. Building on MRI safety studies in biomedical engineering at Purdue, GE was able to drastically improve their MRI systems in the 1990’s through reduced patient scan times and improved imaging fidelity. More recent research at the Weldon School has led to image reconstruction algorithms that are the technological basis for the next generation of GE CT scanners, reducing X-ray dosage by a factor of 3 to 4 while nearly doubling the imaging resolution. In 2007, a joint effort with GE Healthcare, the Purdue Imaging Center, was created. The Imaging Center houses state-of-the-art GE Signa HDx 3.0T MRI technology, allowing for unprecedented collaborative research and development between researchers, technology developers, and clinicians addressing key problems, as well as creating a multitude of technology translation opportunities.
A key component to the Weldon School’s successes in technology translation is its commitment to moving discoveries into prototypes and through preclinical testing through strategic intramural partnerships, such as the long-term partnership with the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine. This past year, the two schools completed the construction of an expanded clinical research laboratory that includes an array of surgery suites for a wide variety of protocols and procedures. A translation pipeline is being expanded through centers in Purdue’s Discovery Park, including the Bindley Bioscience Center and the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering, in which biomedical engineering faculty both lead and actively participate.
In addition, many biomedical engineering faculty members have founded companies in the Purdue Research Park based upon the application of technologies discovered in their laboratories to meet market and clinical needs. These companies specialize in a variety of health industry challenges, notably drug-delivery (Akina), spinal cord repair (Andara Life Sciences), and critical care (SonarMed).
Numberous Weldon School faculty members are intimately involved with the Indiana University School of Medicine in the clinical evaluation of new technologies discovered and developed in their laboratories, including a number of new approaches to limit the extent of nerve injury and repair nerve damage.
Further expansion of our engineering - medicine links are being made possible through the rapid growth of our combined MD/PhD program with the Indiana University School of Medicine. This summer, the highly-competitive program received a five-year, $1.25 million Medical Scientist Training Program award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This prestigious award recognizes both the quality and potential of this unique program that trains the next generation of physician engineers.
This NIH support and recognition was announced shortly after the creation of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI), a medical research initiative supported by a $25 million grant from the NIH that will combine the strengths of Purdue and the Indiana University School of Medicine, businesses and government to swiftly transform discoveries into better patient care and business opportunities.
Education at the Weldon School begins with a novel undergraduate program that builds on both the Purdue Engineering model and the hands-on learning appraches pioneered by Proffessor Leslie A. Geddes. This highly competitive bachelors degree program is limited to only 72 students per class and will receive formal ABET accreditation this fall. Students learn engineering fundamentals of analysis, problem-solving, design, and teamwork, solely in the content of biology and physiology. The integrated curriculum includes hands-on problem based learning through intensive laboratory coursework and projects encompassing real-life clinical and industrial problems. In addition, all undergraduate students complete at least one research experience or industrial internship, for example, working with R&D departments at organizations like the world leader in hospital and home health care equipment, Hill-Rom.
The Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program offers students opportunities to engage in highly collaborative research efforts with such partners as the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, through such programs as the recently NIH funded Program in Quantitative Physiology. These alliances offer the more than 100 students in the program an unprecedented array of research topics, expertise, and facilities, allowing them to move ideas from the bench top to the pre-clinical stage within their graduate program tenure.
Students also benefit from a diversity of mentorship expertise ranging from engineering to clinical applications. The graduate program was initially bolstered in 1999 by the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (NSFIGERT) grant in therapeutic and diagnostic devices that supported the development of numerous interdisciplinary alliances, and courses. In 2006, the graduate program was ranked, for the first time, by U.S. News and World Reports as the 36th best in the nation. This ranking improved to 24th in 2007 and again to 20th in 2008.
Graduate students in this novel program learn key aspects of medical device commercialization in a team environment through cross-disciplinary instruction that spans the technology and business realms including such topics as: clinical needs assessments, intellectual property, market analysis, pre-clinical study planning, clinical study design, FDA approval processes, biomedical startup company financial models, reimbursement, and corporate exit strategies.
Last year Purdue received a $100M endowment from the Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Biomedical Engineering to create an institute for the development of biomedical devices and products. Located in Purdue’s Discovery Park, the Mann Institute is already translating early-stage discoveries through technology development teams. Promising biomedical technologies are advanced for the market by first creating prototypes and undertaking in vitro and pre-clinical testing. The Institute is expected to form partnerships with medical centers such as the Indiana University School of Medicine for the clinical evaluation of the most promising technologies, as well with Indiana medical device companies for their subsequent manufacture and commercialization. The resources and capabilities of the Mann Institute are significantly increasing the number of Purdue faculty members and students involved in translational research activities and the number of innovations that achieve clinical impact.
Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) established (1998)
- Graduate program formed with Indiana University School of Medicine
- Whitaker Foundation special award received ($1M) (1998)
- NSF IGERT grant awarded ($2.7M) (1999)
- Online Professional Master's degree program launched (2008)
First BME faculty members hired (2000)
- Nearly half of current faculty members are women
- Junior faculty mentorship program established (2000)
- All promotion cases to date have been successful
- 20th core faculty member hired (2008)
Combined MD/PhD program with IUSM established (2001)
- Program receives NIH MSTP funding (2008)
Technology transfer continues to grow
- Over 100 active U.S. patents; 45 active corporate licensees
- BME cumulative licensing revenues to Purdue exceed $15M
- Numerous medical device startup companies formed
Significant BME fund-raising achieved (> $60M) (2002-)
- State of Indiana funding for building ($13M) and program growth (>$25M)
- Whitaker Foundation funding for building ($5M) (2003)
- Alumni and friends gift support (>$17M) (2003-)
BME undergraduate program developed (2001-)
- Academic programs and instructional staff fully hired (2007)
- Inaugural class graduates (2007)
- ABET accreditation to be granted in fall (2008)
- Honors program developed (2011)
Martin C. Jischke Hall of BME designed and constructed ($25M) (2003-2006)
Purdue Discovery Park Centers formed with significant BME leadership
- Bindley Bioscience; Regenstrief Healthcare Eng. (2004)
Weldon family gift ($10M) names BME School (2004)
- First named school of engineering at Purdue
Biomedical Sciences graduate program with Vet. Medicine launched (2005)
BME undergraduate industrial internship program created (2005)
Biomedical Entrepreneurship certificate program with Krannert formed (2005)
- Guidant and C.R. Bard foundation support ($1M)
Cook Group, Inc. endows Leslie A. Geddes Professorship ($1.5M) (2006)
U.S. News ranks BME graduate program 36th (2006)
- Ranking improves to 24th (2007)
- Ranking improves to 20th (2008)
U.S. News ranks BME undergraduate program 19th (2010)
U.S. News ranks BME undergraduate program 19th (2010)
Korean Institute of Sci. and Tech. nanomedicine partnership formed ($4.5M) (2007)
Univ. of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez graduate education partnership founded (2007)
Purdue Imaging Center created in partnership with GE Healthcare (2007)
Clinical Research Laboratory with Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine constructed (2007)
Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Development endowed ($100M) (2007)
BME faculty continue to be recognized for their efforts
- Leslie Geddes awarded the National Medal of Technology (2006)
- Jenna Rickus receives ASEE BME teaching award (2007)
Numerous scholarships for BME undergraduates established
- NSF funds scholarships in quantitative physiology (2008)
Growing number of clinical research partnerships with IUSM formed
- Joint program receives NIH CTSI funding ($25M) (2008)
This decade of accomplishments built on the foundation of inventive successes of Professor Geddes and the pioneers of biomedical engineering at Purdue. Now, a new decade of achievement is already underway that will build upon the recently-completed decade we celebrate. Faculty recruitment continues, as does the selection of the best and brightest students from around the world. New industry and academic partnerships are being developed, as well as new innovative international partnerships.
One of the promising highlights in the decade to come will be our new partnership in graduate biomedical engineering education with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM), the premier engineering institution in the Caribbean. The partnership facilitates UPRM undergraduates to undertake graduate studies in biomedical engineering at Purdue, encourages collaborative research between faculty members at the two institutions through strategic grants, and aids in the development over the next few years of a bioengineering graduate program at UPRM that will allow for enhanced curricular, student, and faculty exchanges.
In parallel, a biomedical engineering research partnership in nanomedicine was formed last year with the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) through significant funding from the Korean government. This global partnership facilitates the reciprocal use of research facilities as well as seeds collaborative research in this emerging area of medical diagnostics and therapeutics through a dedicated postdoctoral fellowship program.
Building on the traditions and successes of the past, the Weldon School is poised to reach new heights. The impact will be felt worldwide, as we expand and enhance our educational and research programs while retaining the commitment to finding and developing practical solutions to the challenges of world-wide healthcare and improving the lives of people everywhere.