Yale biomedical engineers receive prestigious Early Career Awards



Erin Lavik
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New Haven, Conn. -- Two assistant professors of Biomedical Engineering at Yale have been named recipients of Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Early Career Translational Research Awards in Biomedical Engineering.

The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving human healthcare by supporting translational research in Biomedical Engineering. The awards require collaboration with a clinical investigator affiliated with a practicing clinical environment and are intended to encourage and assist investigators as they establish themselves in academic research careers that involve translational research. Principal investigators receiving an award must have a primary appointment in a Biomedical Engineering department and have received a doctoral degree within the previous six years.

Erin Lavik was granted the award for her project "Sustained delivery of timolol maleate for management of elevated IOP for glaucoma," in collaboration with Young Kwon and Markus Kheun at the University of Iowa.

"There are medications that lower intraocular pressure (IOP) very successfully, but need to be administered several times a day. Unfortunately, many patients with glaucoma are not able to administer eye drops several times a day effectively, and they suffer increased IOP, nerve damage, and ultimately may lose their sight," said Lavik of the rationale for her project. "By developing a long term delivery system, we seek to ease this problem and lay the foundation for the delivery of other drugs in the eye."



Tarek Fahmy (right) explains nanoparticle formulation to his graduate student, Erin Steenblock
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Tarek Fahmy received the award for his project "Multimodal nanoparticles for targeting autoimmune T cells in systemic lupus erythematosus: A strategy for non-invasive diagnosis and targeted drug delivery," a collaboration with Joseph Craft in the Department of Immunobiology at Yale.

"We have developed a platform technology that promises to simultaneously detect cells that cause autoimmune disease by magnetic resonance imaging, and deliver drugs to those cells," said Fahmy. "The approach is driven by an expert understanding of the basic and clinical science coupled to a promising novel nanotechnology that is rapidly translatable to the clinical setting.

"These Early Career Awards acknowledge excellent science, and are specifically targeted to innovative Biomedical Engineering research that will impact clinical care," said W. Mark Saltzman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "Excellence in translational medicine is the focus of our new department."

The awards are for two years of research funding, and winners will be honored at an event in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society in October.

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Wallace H. Coulter, the benefactor of the Foundation, invented the Coulter Principle, an electronic method of counting and classifying microscopic particles suspended in fluid. This principle was incorporated by Coulter in an apparatus to count and classify blood cells, a process that was previously done manually. This apparatus, which came to be known as the "Coulter Counter," revolutionized the practice of clinical laboratory medicine. The CBC, the complete blood cell count, to this date, is among the most widely performed clinical diagnostic test.

According to the Foundation, this awards program continues the life-long work of its benefactor, who believed that the results of research must be taken to the stage of a commercially viable product in order to truly benefit humanity. Believing that the contributions of engineers to solving biomedical problems were generally under-recognized, Wallace mentored and encouraged young engineers to dream, take risks, and be innovative.


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