UI part of $62.5 million effort to improve medical-training devices

UI part of $62.5 million effort to improve medical-training devices

URBANA — A fever raging, blood pressure dropping and heart rate speeding up, the patient goes into septic shock.

What should the doctors and nurses do? Administer antibiotics and other medicines? Add fluids? Resuscitate?

With the backing of a $62.5 million endowment, a group of engineers, doctors and students will come together to improve and develop devices that will help train medical students, devices that for example simulate how a patient with an "overwhelming infection" responds to their various treatments, according to Dr. John Vozenilek.

The team includes the University of Illinois College of Engineering, Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare in Peoria, the UI's College of Medicine in Peoria, and OSF HealthCare, the network of Catholic hospitals and medical clinics. And in the coming years, officials with those entities expect opportunities for further collaboration on a variety of projects, such as improving medical devices, creating new ones and enhancing training tools.

Jump Trading, a financial technology company with offices in Chicago, New York and Singapore, has donated $25 million for a new partnership called Jump ARCHES, or the Jump Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation.

OSF HealthCare has launched a campaign to match that $25 million donation and the UI will kick in the equivalent of a $12.5 million endowment for a total of $62.5 million.

All that money will be held in the endowment and the income from that investment will go toward funding research, said Rashid Bashir, head of the UI's Department of Bioengineering.

A call for proposals is expected to be issued this fall, he said.

UI faculty from bioengineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, industrial engineering and other areas will be involved on projects in new imaging methods, health information technology, visualization and human factors. Postdoctoral research associates and students also will be involved.

Bashir called this broad area of research "healthcare systems engineering." And Jump ARCHES is an "interesting and unique opportunity" for faculty to work alongside medical professionals on developing new materials and devices that will help in the clinical simulation of medical procedures and other situations.

In training medical students, nurses and doctors, actors have played the roles of patients for decades. But as computers become smaller and faster, the use of technology, such as full body simulators, has really ramped up in recent years, said Vozenilek, the chief medical officer with the Jump center.

UI researchers have done a "tremendous amount of work in sensor technology — John Rogers has done remarkable things in tiny biological sensors — in data visualization and data security. ... We're also interested in 3-D printers," Vozenilek said.

Most 3-D printers make hard, plastic models. But can they create a more supple form? One graduate student is working on building a 3-D printer to create a model that can emulate a more sophisticated tissue density, which would be helpful in training clinicians, Vozenilek said.

In the area of data visualization and data security, the university's researchers can work on projects that involve data being taken from a patient via sensor (such as monitoring someone's diabetes) and sent to clinicians, he said. But that data must be transmitted securely to the patient's electronic health records.

"We are very excited about this opportunity," Bashir said.

The Jump center in Peoria, which opened last spring thanks to another $25 million from the financial company, is adding a third and fourth floor to its building. The College of Engineering will have a big presence there, Bashir said. The Jump center already has an office in the UI Research Park in Champaign, where Vozenilek has been working with some senior bioengineering students.

About 20 or 30 people will be involved, although Bashir said he hopes to have an even bigger collaboration encompassing undergraduates and others.

"I'm really hoping this will grow," he said.

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