“Discovery at the Intersection of Engineering, Medicine and Imagination”
IBT Director, Mark S. Humayun MD, PhD, devoted his career to developing treatments for eye diseases, after having watched his grandmother lose her vision to diabetes. But discovering cures for vision loss is no easy feat, as visual processing involves both the complex machinery of the eye, and approximately 30% of the cerebral cortex of the brain. Through the development of vision restoration treatments, a strong foundation has been built upon which the Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics (IBT) at the University of Southern California (USC) can expand, allowing the creation of a new generation of therapies that target debilitating neurological diseases.
Established on the National Science Foundation-funded Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems Engineering Research Center (BMES-ERC) at USC (2003-2013), IBT provides a vast infrastructure of expertise to develop novel biomedical technologies.
The BMES research center focused on the development of implantable microelectronic devices for the treatment of presently incurable diseases. Novel interventions for ophthalmic, neurological and other systemic disorders through the use of microelectronic and biomedical technologies were created. IBT expands upon the principles founded by the BMES, going beyond the development of microelectronics to develop biomedical technology through applications in biology, photonics and pharmacology.
IBT at the University of Southern California (USC) converges both medicine and all aspects of engineering to create neural interfaces with the goal of developing treatments for patients with degenerative neurological conditions.
IBT Strives To:
- Expand our knowledge of degenerative neurological diseases through developing cutting edge biomedical therapies.
- Develop education outreach initiatives that broaden young people’s understanding of medicine and engineering.
- Forge partnerships with other academic centers and industry to advance commercialization of technologies and to foster student-industry relationships.
Working at the interface of engineering and medicine, the USC IBT is broadly interdisciplinary, involving four USC schools (Keck School of Medicine of USC, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and USC School of Pharmacy), USC Roski Eye Institute and 14 distinct disciplines—including biomedical engineering, medicine, materials engineering, biology, biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, pharmacology, physiology, and electronics—all of which share their unique insights at the discovery phase. Our work is complementary and synergistic, with a strong focus from the beginning on translational medicine.
3 Key Initiatives
Our three overarching and inter-related approaches include Neural Interfaces, Neurophotonics and NeuroRx.
Neural Interfaces, Neural Electronics and Neural Scaffolds
The first IBT initiative, neural interfaces, can be further subdivided into neural electronics and neural scaffolds. Neural electronics focuses on the integration of electronic devices with the brain and other components of the nervous system such as Argus II, the world’s first FDA approved retinal prosthesis. Argus II, also known as the bionic eye, restores functional sight in patients blinded by retinitis pigmentosa (a retinal degenerative disease). In addition, IBT is forging ahead in treating neurological diseases through developing cellular neural scaffolds through stem cell bioengineering approach. This work has resulted in the development of a novel stem cell-based therapy for dry age-related macular degeneration in Phase 1 clinical trials.
At the interface of biochemistry and biomedical engineering, IBT researchers are developing light harvesting tools such as cage compounds and photonic devices that may stimulate neuronal activity and lead to the treatment of a host of neural conditions and disorders.
The team of multidisciplinary IBT researchers comprised of chemists, pharmacologists, engineers and physicians, focus their efforts on the drug development and design of novel medications and drug-delivery systems that target the brain or nervous system.
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