Clemson adn MUSC Forge Biomedical Engineering Partnership

CONTACTS: Larry Dooley, Clemson, (864) 656-3200
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Dan Knapp, MUSC, (843) 792-2471
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WRITER: Sandy Dees, (864) 656-4193
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Benefits could range from new heart valves to biomed start-up companies

CLEMSON -- Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina have
forged a unique biomedical engineering partnership that could make South
Carolina a leader in the development of new biomedical engineering technology,
leaders from the universities announced today (Sept. 25). The partnership is
expected to help attract millions of dollars in additional biomedical
engineering research grants.
"We're combining the unique strengths of Clemson and MUSC to create a regional
powerhouse," said Larry Dooley, one of the catalysts behind the Clemson
University-Medical University of South Carolina Biomedical
Engineering/Bioengineering Program. "We're not competing against each other;
we're competing against the world." Dooley is the associate dean of Clemson's
College of Engineering and Science.
The collaborative research will place Clemson professors in MUSC labs in
Charleston, giving them closer access to clinical testing.
Through the partnership, research is already under way on vascular implants and
drug-enhanced cardiac stents that could help prevent early failure and
reblockage in heart vessels. Cardiovascular disease causes roughly 35 percent
of deaths in South Carolina.
Non-cardiac work includes cell-based drug-delivery systems, "injectable" liquid
tissue implants and tissue and therapeutic interventions for nerve
regeneration, spinal injury repair and Parkinson's disease. Researchers are
even using a modified desktop inkjet printer to produce 3-D living tissue as a
step toward printing complex tissues or even entire organs.
Officials predict the new bioengineering knowledge cluster will prompt a wave
of start-up companies specializing in the production of innovative therapeutic
and research devices.
"We're building the foundation for research that will save lives and
substantially improve the quality of lives," said Dan Knapp, MUSC's
bioengineering program director. "Patients could see benefits from this work
within three to five years."
The collaboration coalesces Clemson's nationally-recognized expertise in
biomedical engineering, bioengineering and cell biology with the substantial
work in developmental biology and fundamental stem cell research being
conducted at MUSC.
Students in the Charleston area will for the first time have the opportunity to
study graduate level bioengineering locally, and students in the Upstate, who
are studying bioengineering at Clemson's world-class program, will have
expanded opportunities to study at an academic medical center where they can
see firsthand the clinical applications of their work. Bioengineering graduates
are increasingly in high demand by the medical device industry as well as by
research and educational institutions.
On a state level, the new program is a model of inter-institutional cooperation
that will strengthen the collaborative research and education programs of both
universities as well as increase advanced degree opportunities in the state
without the cost of establishing another biomedical engineering department at
MUSC, said Martine LaBerge, interim chair of Clemson's bioengineering
Clemson has the only bioengineering department in the state. It offers M.S. and
Ph.D. degrees in bioengineering and collaborates with both MUSC and the
University of South Carolina School of Medicine on biomedical engineering
research projects through the S.C. Bioengineering Alliance.
The collaboration is partially funded by a $6 million award from the National
Institutes of Health to help build the state's biomedical infrastructure. That
award placed two Clemson bioengineers at MUSC. Partial funding also comes from
a $9 million National Science Foundation grant, awarded through the state's
Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program, that paid for
two researchers to be housed at MUSC and an additional two at Clemson.
Clemson's bioengineering department has now doubled in size, with 15 faculty on
staff or in the process of being hired. On board fewer than three months, the
researchers have already received more than $300,000 in research funding, with
more than $2 million in grant applications pending.
The collaboration is part of the same biomedical engineering groundswell that's
also won the state's three research universities -- Clemson, MUSC and USC -- a
commitment for $6 million from 2004 state education lottery proceeds. The
money, which will be matched by an additional $6 million raised privately by
the universities -- will establish the S.C. Center for Regenerative Medicine.
The money will be divided evenly between the schools to hire some of the
nation's top bioengineers in endowed chair positions.
Clemson bioengineering students working with the bioengineering faculty in
Charleston will receive their degrees from Clemson. MUSC graduate students in
MUSC degree programs may also work with the bioengineering faculty and receive
their degrees from MUSC. MUSC students pursuing the combined M.D. - Ph.D. will
have the option of receiving a Ph.D. degree in bioengineering from Clemson.
Both MUSC and Clemson students will be able to take courses from both
The distance separation of the two campuses will be overcome by use of
videoconferencing and distance learning technologies, said LaBerge.
Bioengineering courses taught at Clemson will be viewed by students at MUSC.
Likewise, Clemson students will be able to see MUSC courses and lectures
through the use of teleconferencing facilities at Clemson.
MUSC and Clemson have a long history of cooperation in the field of
bioengineering. The fluidized air bed, which has eased the comfort of untold
numbers of hospitalized patients, was developed in the 1960s by a member of the
MUSC Department of Surgery with an adjunct appointment in engineering at
Clemson. Since then, a variety of programs in dental materials, cardiology and
digestive diseases have been successful as a result of bioengineering
collaboration by faculty of the two institutions. The new program will build on
this foundation.


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