McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Harvey Borovetz, PhD (pictured top), chair of the Department of Bioengineering, the Robert L. Hardesty Professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, and deputy director of the Artificial Organs and Medical Devices division of the McGowan Institute, will be the principal investigator and one of three co-leaders for a $3.54 million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. The Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh is one of only five universities nationwide to receive the foundation’s Coulter Translational Partnership II Award; the 5-year grant to the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering will fund research that employs engineering techniques to develop improvements in health care, with the ultimate goal of accelerating the introduction of new technologies into patient care. The other members of the leadership team for the Coulter program at Pitt are McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine deputy director Stephen Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD (pictured bottom), a professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and director of tissue engineering in the McGowan Institute, and Marc Malandro, director of the Office of Technology Management and associate vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization at Pitt.
The award from the Coulter Foundation will be supplemented by $1.5 million in matching funds from the Pitt School of Medicine, the Swanson School, and the University’s Office of Technology Management.
“We are thrilled to have been chosen to receive this award and participate in the Coulter Foundation program. Not only will it be of tremendous benefit to the individual researchers who receive funding, but it affirms both the growing prominence and future potential of Pitt’s bioengineering program,” said Gerald D. Holder, PhD, Pitt’s U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering.
Pratap Khanwilkar, PhD, will serve as the Coulter Program Director and Visiting Professor in the Swanson School’s bioengineering department and as Executive-In-Residence at the University’s Office of Technology Management. Dr. Khanwilkar, who has studied, taught, and conducted research at the University of Utah for 28 years, most recently as an adjunct professor in the Department of Bioengineering, is the founder of six medical device product/service companies. In a uniquely fashioned, multifaceted position, Dr. Khanwilkar has been hired to guide the development of appropriate projects to be undertaken by Pitt researchers; ensure that they are properly vetted by a Coulter oversight committee; and facilitate the progress of securing additional funding, licensing intellectual property, and developing spin-off companies.
“We are especially pleased to have been chosen to receive this award because the University has demonstrated not only its ability to form partnerships between clinicians and engineers to develop ideas and products that will directly impact patients, but also the passion to see those ideas through to clinical application,” Dr. Borovetz said.
Another significant determinant was the strength of the relationships the foundation has had with both individuals like Dr. Borovetz and the Pitt researchers whom the foundation already supports through the Coulter Translation Research Awards program for individual investigators.
The $3.54 million award was made to Pitt as part of a second phase of program development from the Coulter Foundation. Translational partnership awards through the first program development phase were made in 2005 to 9 U.S. universities. The $40 million awarded by Coulter in that first phase has resulted in an additional $300 million in investments to further the development and market applications of the various projects initiated as a result of the 9 Coulter-funded programs.
The Coulter Foundation and six universities in the first phase established $20,000,000 funds at each school to continue the program. Half of the funds were contributed by the Coulter Foundation and each school raised the remainder.
The foundation used feedback it sought from universities that received funding in the first phase of the program to adopt a more formal procedure, dubbed the “Coulter Process,” which they believe will yield even richer technology transfers of new products, applications, materials, and/or services to the medical community.
The Coulter Process allows for a 1-year startup period during which the 5-year program will be established on campus by the Pitt program's leadership team. “Through the research funded by this generous award, the University’s bioengineering faculty members are pleased to partner with the Coulter Foundation in working to fulfill the mission of Wallace Coulter expressed in his company’s motto, ‘Science Serving Humanity,’ ” Dr. Borovetz stated.
About the Pitt Swanson School's Department of Bioengineering
Bioengineering is the application of engineering principles to analyze, design, and manufacture tools, structures, and processes to solve problems in the life sciences. Successful patient-focused and commercialization-oriented collaborations between engineers and physicians who traditionally employ differing methodologies are critical to the burgeoning field and to regional economic development.
Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering, which was established in 1998 as part of the Swanson School of Engineering, is ranked as one of the nation’s top bioengineering programs, and has received millions of dollars to fund research for such advances as the development of a tiny cardiac-assist device for infants, a blood-treatment tool that can free patients from ventilator dependence, and materials that help generate bone. The department is home to 23 full-time faculty and more than 100 faculty holding secondary appointments.
The Department of Bioengineering is currently developing a new Center for Medical Innovation (CMI), which will collaborate with the Coulter Translational Partnership Program to define early-stage, innovative medical technologies and to promote their commercialization. CMI also has an educational mission to develop the next generation of medical product innovators through the cooperative efforts of Pitt’s Schools of Engineering, Business, Law, and the Schools of the Health Sciences.
About Wallace H. Coulter and the Coulter Foundation
Wallace Coulter’s deepest passion was to improve health care and make these improvements
available and affordable to everyone. Mr. Coulter dedicated his wealth to continuing to improve
health care through medical research and engineering, and established the Wallace H. Coulter
Foundation to fund these areas. The Foundation funds translational research in biomedical
engineering with the goal of accelerating the introduction of new technologies into patient care.
His values of endless curiosity, continuous learning, teamwork, consideration, and respect for
the individual, coupled with the highest level of ethics and integrity are the cornerstone values
of The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. The Foundation established and ran the Translational
Partners I Program, in which 9 Universities demonstrated exceptional results, recognized even
by the White House. The Foundation has leveraged this success to initiate the TPII program.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering
Bio: Dr. Harvey Borovetz
Bio: Dr. Stephen Badylak