Academia, Industry Collaborate on Solutions to Neural Disease, Injury

BRAIN Center Will Draw Researchers from ASU, UH to Develop New Technologies

Article ID: 673211

Released: 18-Apr-2017 4:05 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Arizona State University (ASU)

  • Credit: Pete Zrioka/Arizona State University

Newswise — Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, the aftermath of stroke, limb loss and paralysis significantly diminish the length and quality of life – affecting about one in six people worldwide. But a growing number of biomedical innovations, driven in large part by an aging population dealing with debilitating health issues, are improving both cognitive and motor function.

A new National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) will focus on developing and testing new neuraltechnologies with the potential to dramatically enhance patient function across a wide range diseases and injuries while both lowering costs and increasing accessibility. 

The BRAIN Center (Building Reliable Advances and Innovation in Neurotechnology) will be led by researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Houston and, working with industry partners, will speed technologies to market.

BRAIN will focus on developing and testing neurotechnologies designed to address a wide range of sensory, motor and cognitive functions. These neuraltechnologies could save an estimated $400 billion in future costs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“The BRAIN Center is a way to bring together top faculty at both institutions to address critical challenges in the biomedical field,” said Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH. “The best way to do that is working with industry.”

Contreras-Vidal and Marco Santello, director of ASU’s School of Biological Health Sciences Engineering, will lead the project, which involves more than 50 researchers from both institutions, along with 14 members from industry, including several hospital systems. The researchers come from a wide range of disciplines, from engineering to law, data science and physiology. More information is available on the center website.

“Medical advances have dramatically increased life expectancy in the 21st Century,” said Santello. “The BRAIN Center will enable us to develop safe, reliable neurotechnologies to address the rise in chronic, degenerative diseases associated with an aging population,” said Santello.

The BRAIN Center was launched with a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, shared equally by the universities; industry collaborators pay $50,000 a year to partner with faculty, using university laboratories to co-develop and validate new technologies.

With dedicated space on both campuses, the center will host two meetings a year, starting with a summer meeting in Phoenix and a second meeting in Houston this fall. Industry/faculty teams will present proposals for developing collaborative research projects. Research areas range from Big Data to neurorehabilitation and neuromodulation device development, to robotic-assisted therapy and regulatory science.

The NSF grant also includes a workforce training component, with a focus on recruiting and training students from underrepresented communities in undergraduate programs.

“We are training the next workforce,” said Contreras-Vidal. “The technology is so new, we don’t have enough people to design, repair, validate and prescribe these technologies.”

About Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University

The Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU is comprised of six engineering schools: the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering; the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering; the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering; the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy; the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment; and The Polytechnic School. Fulton Schools offers 24 undergraduate and 39 graduate programs on its Tempe and Polytechnic campuses and online. Fall, 2016 enrollment in Fulton programs was 20,363 students. To meet this growth and expand its research expertise in core areas of health, energy, education, security and sustainability, faculty numbers have grown to more than 320. Research expenditures for fiscal 201 were an estimated $103.3 million.

About the Cullen College of Engineering

The University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, established in 1941, is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET and is ranked among the top 100 engineering schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. More than 5,000 students are enrolled in biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, mechanical and petroleum engineering courses. The college also offers interdisciplinary graduate programs in subsea, aerospace, geosensing systems engineering and sciences, materials, space architecture, and computer and systems engineering. The mission of the Cullen College of Engineering is to serve the Greater Houston community, Texas and the nation by educating engineers to assume leadership positions in the identification and solution of the complex technical challenges of society, to advance the state of knowledge through pioneering research and scholarly work, to facilitate the transfer of new technology to Texas and U.S. industries, to play a key role in economic development for the Greater Houston region and the State of Texas, and to benefit the public sector through service to the university, community, industry, government and the engineering profession.

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