The BMRC integrates novel microsystems technologies, engineering methods, and biological research to provide unique capabilities to biomedical and clinical investigators for probing, manipulating, engineering and analyzing biological cells for diagnostics, therapeutic, toxicology and drug screening advances as well as for basic biological discovery. BMRC brings together an experienced multi-disciplinary team of core and collaborative investigators with an established track record of working together on a multitude of scientific, technological, and educational endeavors. We extensively benefit from our unique environment with outstanding intellectual know-how in clinical medicine, life sciences, and technology, all within the umbrella of the same organization (Fig. 1). Our mission is broad and includes the following:
- Integrate MEMS-based technologies with living systems to explore applications in biology and clinical medicine,
- Bridge the gap between microtechnologies and biomedical communities to identify and validate "enabling" applications of BioMEMS,
- Identify unexplored applications and work closely with technology inventors toward the development of new microscale tools,
- Collaborate with end-users (biologists and clinicians) to disseminate the BMRC technologies as well as to establish a formal mechanism for feedback to continually improve the resource center toolkit, and
- Ensure commercialization of most promising BMRC tools to broadly impact healthcare.
Center Concept and Rationale
The diverse range of scientific and technological inputs required toexplore the use of microtechnology in living cells and systems necessitates an integrated, multi-disciplinary effort. It would be difficult if not impossible for any single lab or investigator to manage all the required components for such complex systems, including microtechnology, MEMS, microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip, biosensors, surface chemistry, genomics, tissue engineering, cell biology, clinical medicine, among others - a Center concept is required.
The structure of the Center is based on the suggested format by the NIH Biomedical Technology Research Resources. More specifically, there are 5 key components: (1) Technology Research & Development (TR&D) Projects, (2) Collaborative Research, (3) Service Projects, (4) Training activities, and (5) Dissemination. Figure A below depicts the Center approach used to promote the mission of BMRC. TR&D Projects push the frontiers of the use of microtechnology in living cells and systems. Collaborations are integral to this process as they define challenging biomedical problems that cannot be approached with the current technology toolbox. As a result, they push the limits and capabilities of the technology. The core relationship between TR&D and Collaborations is further supported by service projects (primarily providing tools or know-how to biomedical investigators), training of the community in the use of the tools developed by BMRC, and finally, dissemination to aggressively translate the BMRC technology to the broader medical community. This structure constitutes the essence of the BMRC, which ultimately leads to the cutting edge innovation in technology. Special attention is given to select a very balanced cadre of collaborators in order to fully support the technology innovation activities within the TR&D Projects. More specifically, the Center has biological, clinical, and technology collaborators, and the mutual benefits of these collaborations are illustrated in Fig. B.
Overall Summary & Impact
In its relatively short presence, BMRC has had tremendous impact in the burgeoning field of BioMEMS. Briefly, some of our major accomplishments include:
- We assembled state-of-the-art and fully functional core BioMEMS facilities
- We assembled a very prominent, multidisciplinary core and collaborative faculty
- We established collaborators that are well distributed demographically across the country with several international representations, with a balanced emphasis among clinical medicine, basic biology, and technology, and excellent track record of NIH-funding
- We recruited top-notch students and fellows from disparate disciplines
- We developed, validated, and disseminated blood sorting technologies to more than 20 hospitals and clinical centers for studies in cancer patients, burns and trauma, and HIV/AIDS
- We extensively published our findings from core projects and collaborations in high profile journals
- We developed robust training programs of which multiple full-fledged formal coursework at Harvard, MIT, and Olin College of Engineering, organized multiple symposia and hands-on workshops
- We championed the launching of the Annual Reviews of Biomedical Engineering (ARBE), which is not the highest impact publication in the entire field of bioengineering
- We edited more than 20 chapters in BioMEMS in ARBE with over 100,000 downloads and 2,000 citations.
- We established the Methods in Bioengineering Conference in participation of so far 6 other P41 Resource Centers.
- We formalized and implemented formal relationships with several micro-manufacturing foundries (e.g., Silex, IMT, ThinXXS) for the dissemination of our tools and chips more effectively, especially for clinical trials
- We secured BMRC discoveries in the form of patents and helped spin off multiple companies with Verinata Health being recently acquired by Illumina for $450m
- We have had and continue to have strong institutional commitment.