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Whitaker Foundation to fund center for engineering in medicine

The Center for Engineering in Medicine (CEM) at the Massachusetts General Hospital will be expanded under a recently announced grant from the Whitaker Foundation.

The center has been established in partnership with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), Brigham & Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital and the Shriners Burn Institute. Professor Martin L. Yarmush of HST, the Helen Andrus Benedict Professor of Surgery and Bioengineering at Harvard Medical

School, is the director of the Center.

"Our vision is to create a center of excellence in which the principles of engineering can be used to answer biological and medical questions at the basic and applied level," Dr. Yarmush said. "We hope to convince the health care community that biomedical engineering is fundamental to understanding disease and designing and evaluating therapeutics. Our efforts will demonstrate how the seamless integration of engineering with life science and clinical activity can produce outstanding results in improving health care."

The Whitaker grant also proposed several initiatives, including the recruitment of new bioengineering faculty with interests in developmental biology and genetic and metabolic engineering.

A Biomedical Engineering Discovery Fund (BEDF) will provide seed funds for research projects of CEM faculty in emerging areas of molecular and cellular therapeutics, tissue engineering and functional imaging. The BEDF funds are intended to support graduate students in biomedical engineering in the early stages of their dissertation research. Professor Joseph Bonventre (HST '76) chairs the Research Committee and Professor Bruce Rosen (HST '84) heads the program in functional imaging.

An Applied Research and Technology Development Program organized by Professor Jay Schnitzer (HST '83) and Jose Venegas (HST '83) will encourage the development of biomaterials, medical devices and computational tools.

The grant will also expand a program established earlier by a Whitaker Foundation award called the Biomedical Engineering Research and Education Program for Physician Fellows. This program, directed by Dr. Mehmet Toner (HST '89), provides two year postgraduate training in biomedical engineering to academically oriented residents and fellows.

Other educational activities planned include a new postdoctoral molecular medicine training program for engineering PhDs and a summer internship program for premedical students with engineering majors.

The MGH has pledged to raise a $2.5 million endowment for biomedical engineering education for long-term support. The CEM plans to expand its research and education network to include interested bioengineering activities at MIT and at other Harvard affiliated institutions, including Children's Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Joslin Diabetes Clinic and the Roxbury VA. Prof. Martha Gray, interim co-director of HST, will help to implement the grant's HST-related activities.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 15, 1996.

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