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Dear Colleagues and Friends, More than 15 years ago, a powerful partnership was forged between Emory University’s School of Medicine and Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering. This partnership led to the creation of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and its outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs. This year, we are delighted that our undergraduate program moved from being ranked number three to number one in the nation, while our graduate biomedical engineering program maintained its number two ranking (U.S. News & World Report, 2017). These outstanding results are a testament to the enthusiasm, inventiveness, fearless outlook, and hard work of our faculty, staff, students and friends. I congratulate and thank them for their many efforts. Although we are pleased and proud of our many successes, we are not standing still. Over the past year, six new members have been added to our BME faculty, attracted from leading programs to the remarkable environment at Georgia Tech/ Emory BME. Further, we are on track to hire an additional four faculty members this upcoming year. Our graduate program is thriving, propelled by new state-of-the-art space at both Emory and Georgia Tech, by exciting cross-campus collaborations, and by remarkable access to clinical expertise at Emory School of Medicine. And of course, our undergraduate program continues to innovate and thrive. Georgia Tech’s most recent fundraising effort, Campaign Georgia Tech, concluded on December 31, 2015 in historic fashion, raising a total of $1.8 billion. Our department exceeded its fundraising goal of $35 million, raising $44.2 million to advance research, scholarship and teaching.

Campaign Georgia Tech concluded in December 2015 and the Coulter Department exceeded its $35 million goal, raising a total of

$44.2 million

The Marcus Center for Cell Characterization and Manufacturing was launched by The Marcus Foundation’s generous gift of

$15.7 million

This report features my own research for NASA, the formation of a new and groundbreaking cell manufacturing center, new DNA barcoding technology, advances in pediatric bioengineering, a very special doctoral thesis project, and a BME neuroengineering update. This is just a small glimpse into the cutting-edge research occurring in our collaborative research laboratories. The future of tomorrow’s healthcare technologies depends on our ability to cultivate fearless problem-solving in students, and to continue making cutting-edge discoveries engaging the finest, most diverse faculty talent and collaborators available to us. None of this excellence in research and teaching can happen without your support — thank you!


C. Ross Ethier Coulter Department Interim Chair Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. Chair in Bioengineering Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Biomechanics and Mechanobiology Professor of Biomedical Engineering

The success of the joint Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering provides an outstanding example of our institutions working collaboratively to maximize partner strengths. Not only is the program among the very best in the country, recent efforts to strengthen the partnership between the Laney Graduate School and the Wallace H. Coulter Department will only propel the program further. – Dean Lisa A. Tedesco James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies, Emory University

The Coulter Department is an active participant in CREATE-X, Georgia Tech’s initiative to instill entrepreneurial confidence.

$2.4 million

has been raised in support of this program to date. Key donors supporting CREATE-X include Chris Klaus and The Marcus Foundation.


Endowed Professorships


Endowed Faculty Chairs

Stats and Rankings





BME undergraduate program in the nation U.S. News & World Report, 2017




Tenured and tenuretrack faculty

Ph.D. degrees




Currently enrolled BME undergraduates

U.S. News & World Report, 2017



B.S. degrees

BME graduate program in the nation

NSF graduate research fellows



Faculty members recruited last year


Federal pre-doctoral training grants

Currently enrolled BME graduate students THERAPEUTIC FOCUS AREAS



Cancer Technologies Nearly 75% of BME undergraduate students conduct research at Georgia Tech

Cardiovascular Engineering Immunoengineering Neuroengineering

58% BME’s Fall 2016 freshman class is 58% women.

Pediatric Bioengineering Regenerative Medicine

Graduates have a unique skill set after graduating from the BME program. This program provides a solid technical background for students and focuses on the steps required to take an idea for an unmet clinical need to the production of a medical device. And with the huge focus on team-based problem solving, they learn to successfully collaborate and contribute to their team’s goals. – Ann Graves Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, St. Jude Medical

Cover depicts Georgia Tech’s seven-story, $113 million Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB).

New Faculty Members The Coulter Department welcomes six new faculty members. NEUROENGINEERING & CANCER TECHNOLOGIES



Costas Arvanitis

Jaydev Desai

Scott Hollister

Assistant Professor

Professor, BME Distinguished Faculty Fellow


Ph.D., University College London; Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford


Ph.D., University of Michigan

Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania; Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University



Chethan Pandarinath

Francisco Robles

Shuichi Takayama

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Cornell University; Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University

Ph.D., Duke University; Postdoctoral Fellow, Duke University

Professor, GRA Eminent Scholar, and Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Regenerative Engineering and Medicine Ph.D., Scripps Research Institute; Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Game Changer in Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Testing DNA barcoding method will concurrently study thousands of nanoparticles, not just one Imagine one gene therapy experiment involving a single drug delivery nanoparticle being replaced by a completely new trial, that concurrently examines hundreds of drug delivery nanoparticles. The shorter test time, lower cost, and labor savings for medical researchers could rapidly accelerate the discovery of new life saving gene therapies. That’s exactly what James Dahlman, assistant professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, is doing in his groundbreaking research. His goal is to improve the delivery of DNA and RNA therapies with a new in vivo test method that could not only examine thousands of possible nanoparticle drug delivery solutions in a short period, but may also eliminate the need to conduct in vitro testing and selection of best candidates — eliminating two time consuming steps in the current testing process. While scientists can easily create thousands of distinct nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery, determining which nanoparticles are effective in different instances is expensive

and time consuming. Scientists have to study each nanoparticle one at a time. Dahlman is leapfrogging this slow and expensive process by reoptimizing and repurposing the same technology people use to study the human genome. He pairs distinct DNA sequences with distinct nanoparticles, and uses DNA sequencing to measure where hundreds of different nanoparticles go in the same sample. This enables him to relate nanoparticle chemical structure to biological targeting (cell tissue types) — identifying which organs and cell types are best targeted by which nanoparticles. His multiplexed nanoparticle in vivo targeting method would significantly improve current screening practices. One of his end goals is to standardize DNA barcoded test methods and share that knowledge with the drug delivery research community — ushering this highly accelerated gene therapy analysis into a new era.

“I am excited by this work, and hope that this advance will help our lab, and many other labs around the world, study gene therapies much more effectively.” – James Dahlman

Saving Astronaut Eyesight — A Top Priority for NASA C. Ross Ethier, professor of biomedical engineering and Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering, has been awarded a grant to support astronaut eye health on long-duration space exploration missions. NASA’s Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is funding research to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long-duration missions beyond low Earth orbit. Ethier, based in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, leads a project entitled “VIIP Simulations of CSF, Hemodynamics and Ocular Risk.” Ethier explains that “VIIP stands for Visual Impairment and Intracranial Pressure syndrome, a set of permanent changes to the eye that affect vision. Obviously this is a significant health concern for astronauts and one that could materially affect operations on long-duration flights.” After examining over 300 astronauts, scientists have discovered that spaceflight can cause serious vision problems in astronauts. NASA and other researchers are working hard to understand the issue. The loss of vision while in space could present a major hurdle for missions to Mars and other faraway objects in our galaxy. Researchers think the eye problems arise from an increase in pressure inside the brain which also affects the optic nerve

“VIIP stands for Visual Impairment and Intracranial Pressure syndrome, a set of permanent changes to the eye that affect vision. Obviously this is a significant health concern for astronauts and one that could materially affect operations on long-duration flights.” – C. Ross Ethier

and posterior eyeball. This occurs because cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the head more in space than it does on Earth, where gravity pulls it down toward the lower body. According to Ethier, “Our work brings together clinicians, engineers and imaging specialists to study VIIP. By using advanced simulation tools and clinical measurements we can better understand the underlying causes of VIIP and eventually help NASA identify astronauts at greatest risk of developing the condition, as well as evaluating countermeasures that will slow or prevent VIIP during space flight.”

VIIP is NASA’s leading spaceflight-related health risk. While in orbit, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg images her eye with a fundoscope. PHOTO COURTESY NASA/HUMAN RESEARCH PROGRAM

From left: BME’s Johnna Temenoff, Manu Platt, and Melissa Kemp are among MC3M’s researchers.

Investment of $23 Million Creates New Cell Manufacturing Center A $15.7 million gift from the Atlanta-based Marcus Foundation, plus other funding, has helped launch the new Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing (MC3M). This new, first of its kind, research center will develop processes and techniques for ensuring the consistent, low-cost, large-scale manufacture of high-quality living cells used in cell-based therapies. The therapies will be used for a variety of disorders such as cancer, lung fibrosis, autism, neuro-degenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders and spinal-cord injury — as well as in regenerative medicine. Over the past few decades, cell-based medical technologies have helped treat many patients with cancer, blood disorders, vision disorders, and other ailments. In one year alone, these products treated more than 160,000 patients. Standardized manufacturing techniques already exist for drug-based pharmaceuticals; the new center will help provide similar methods and standards for manufacturing therapeutic cells. Bringing these new life-changing cell-based medical products to market critically depends on the large-scale, cost-effective, reproducible manufacturing of a variety of cell types. MC3M, in addition to its own equipment and instrumentation infrastructure, will leverage the vast core facility resources available at Georgia Tech and partner/ collaborating Institutes; especially the equipment, space, and expertise/ intellectual resources available through the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (IBB), the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (GTMI), the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM), Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), and the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI). In addition to The Marcus Foundation funding, additional funding will come from the Georgia Research Alliance and Georgia Tech sources for a total investment of $23 million. The Center will implement the National Roadmap for Cell Manufacturing, recently published by the National Cell Manufacturing Consortium ( and highlighted by the White House. The director of the Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing is Krishnendu Roy, Robert A. Milton Endowed Chair in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering; he is also the director of the Center for ImmunoEngineering at Georgia Tech.

Krishnendu Roy (right) has been named as the director for MC3M. Robert Guldberg, executive director of the Petit Institute, represents one of the many research centers that will be involved.

Cell-based medical therapies will be used to help treat disorders such as cancer, lung fibrosis, autism, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders and spinal-cord injury, as well as in regenerative medicine.

Ph.D. Student Robert Mannino Developing Novel Diagnostic Tool for Anemia — and Testing it on Himself Robert Mannino, 25, was diagnosed with anemia at six months of age, and needs blood transfusions every three to four weeks. His Ph.D. project is focused on perfecting a diagnostic tool that works with a smartphone camera. It’s a non-invasive, home test for anemia, and he’s already tested it on himself. “Rob is basically devoting his Ph.D. work to his own disease, and everyone grasped not just the novelty of that, but the importance of it,” says Mannino’s advisor, Wilbur Lam, assistant professor of pediatrics and biomedical engineering in the Coulter Department. “The longer it’s been since my last blood transfusion, the more anemic I get,” he explains. “So I tracked myself over the course of a transfusion cycle, about a month.” One day each week, he’d take a picture of one of his fingernails, then draw blood. “I wanted to see I could come up with a relationship between the fingernail colors and the actual results of the blood test,” he says. “So, after one cycle, over the course of about a month, I was able to find color values in my fingernail that matched up pretty well with my dropping hemoglobin levels.” Your color comes into play at the doctor’s office during an examination for anemia. “The doctor is going to look at how pale

you are, your fingernails, lips and eyes, looking for indications of some sort of anemia,” Mannino says. “If you see me everyday, it might be hard to pick up on a color difference. But the cameras in our phones are getting so sophisticated. This is a procedure that would use existing technology.” Globally, anemia affects about 1.6 billion people. “It’s a symptom of many diseases, of malnourishment, of vitamin deficiency. A lot of different people are affected or potentially could be,” Mannino says. And a lot of those people have more access to a smartphone they do to a physician’s office. Mannino plans to spend his time developing a system that will let a person take a picture of their fingernail, then spit out information about hemoglobin levels. “Then they can go see a doctor,” Mannino says. “We’re working on the app to make that happen. Ideally, by the time I graduate I’d like this to be something that other people can actually download and use.”

Bridging Pediatric Care and Engineering Research When his laboratory works on challenging research problems, Dr. Wilbur Lam can easily envision how the solutions will help children with cancer or blood disorders. That’s because the issues he studies spring from patients he sees as a physician specializing in pediatric hematology and oncology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Lam holds both an M.D. and a Ph.D. and splits his time between the Emory University campus and Georgia Tech, where he’s an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “We’re interested in the cellular biophysics of blood, and we often need to make our own devices to study blood cells and the diseases that alter them,” Lam said. “We do basic science as well as translational research, but it all begins and ends in the clinic with patients.” Lam has many research interests, but some of his lab’s biggest successes have been medical devices. One, called AnemoCheck, was invented by Erika Tyburski when she was an undergraduate at Georgia Tech; its ability to measure anemia was then evaluated in clinical trials at Emory. The other, Cellscope Oto, attaches to smartphones and allows parents to send snapshots of their child’s eardrums to an on-call physician who can determine whether a midnight earache merits immediate attention.

BME Healthreach Program As part of Dr. Lam’s NSF CAREER grant, BME Healthreach, a K-12 outreach program, was created. The program teaches math and science to hospitalized children using their own disease as the motivation and springboards for learning. Undergraduate students from the BME Department at Georgia Tech create interactive teaching modules following Georgia educational standards for math and science directed towards in-patient and clinic children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta–Egleston hospital.

The Imlay Foundation provided a $5 million grant to Georgia Tech and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to develop new therapies for pediatrics. The grant from the Imlay Foundation is the largest in its 25-year history.

BME Neuroengineering Fostering Research Collaboration and Greater Awareness Our basic understanding of the brain and nervous system is rapidly growing, and is being catalyzed by an explosion of new tools and technologies that enable unprecedented visualization and control of function at scales that range from genes to cells to behavior. Fueled by these technology advances, there are rapidly emerging scientific insights into brain function underlying sensing, movement and cognition. Given that there are limited treatments and no cures for any neurological disorders or diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, epilepsy, stroke, or traumatic brain injury), the ultimate impact on human health and innovation will be tremendous. Even now, neurotechnologies and principles from neuroscience are driving the next generation of robotics, rehabilitative tools, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cognitive enhancements.

The Coulter Department has played a key role in the building of momentum in neuroscience across the Georgia Tech and Emory campuses. From the hiring of six new faculty in the neuro area in the last two years to complement the already strong neuro area within the department, to interfacing with Emory neurology and neurosurgery, to forming the NeuralEngineering Center within the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (co-directed by BME faculty Lena Ting and Garrett Stanley) that is driving a larger campus-wide GTNeuro initiative. GTNeuro has driven a range of community building activities, from campus-wide strategic planning (NeuroDay 2016), to the creation of the GTNeuro seminar series, bringing in prominent visitors from the U.S. and abroad, along with local members of the Atlanta neuroscience community. Importantly, BME is home to two of the White House sponsored BRAIN initiative projects. See for more information.

1 Degree • 2 Countries • 3 Universities Georgia Tech, Emory University, and Peking University Offer Exclusive Joint Ph.D. Program

To meet the needs of a rapidly changing society and global economy, three internationally renowned institutions — the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and Peking University — have forged an unprecedented partnership in biomedical engineering. This one-of-a-kind Ph.D. program offers U.S. and Chinese students a unique opportunity to learn and work in global health settings. Students apply to the program through either the Department of Biomedical Engineering at PKU in Beijing or the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory in Atlanta. They have an advisor at their “home campus,” where most of their classes and research will take place, and a co-advisor at their secondary campus, where they will spend at least one year taking classes and participating in research. Through this new paradigm for global biomedical engineering education and research, graduates are prepared to become international leaders of innovation who can contribute to cultural, political, economic, and health concerns in their home countries and around the world. Copyright 2016 • Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory

Georgia Tech, Wallace H. Coulter Department, Year 2016