Dr. Jinglu Tan talks about biomedical engineering the way most people would talk about the discovery of an enormous secret fortune. And in some ways, he'd be right.
There's one problem, though. In the past, he says, researchers haven't crossed the boundaries they should: They do the research, but they leave the next step -- the practical application -- to for-profit entrepreneurs.
That's the step he hopes that researchers at Mizzou will take in the future. Thankfully, the school has $5 million to ensure that they will.
This Tuesday, the University of Missouri announced its most recent funding acquisition, a $5 million grant agreement with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation tied specifically to its Translational Partnership Award Program. The idea of translation is key here: The ultimate goal of the research conducted with these funds is to create products or projects that will directly benefit healthcare patients.
The department was selected to apply in October because of its previous success with the foundation, which has granted money to some of its professors. With the help of Bill Caldwell, director of the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, and Chris Fender, director of the MU Office of Technology Management and Industrial Relations,Tan, the chair of Mizzou's biological engineering department, hopes to translate the department's rapid growth in both size and national reputation in the past ten years into projects that will benefit hospital patients while creating a name for the department.
"The goal is twofold: One is that we take medical engineering research to the marketplace," Tan says. "We need to go a step further and take the discoveries toward a direction, such as a procedure, a product or a drug, that directly benefits patients. Our second goal is to contribute economically through new businesses and employment opportunities as a result of that."
At the year's end, the grant committee will meet up and begin soliciting proposals that meet those goals. The projects must be both translational and collaborative -- they must take research to the marketplace and work across disciplines. Through the grant, the university will be awarded $666,667 from the foundation each of the next five years, while Mizzou matches $333,333 each year.
"We're proud of the collaborative culture at Mizzou," Tan says. "It's important for us to find a way to commercialize the industry and create immediate applications for our research. Especially in biomedical research, it takes a village."