Coulter Foundation Selects University of Virginia Biomedical Engineering Department for Innovative Partnership

February 21, 2006 — The University of Virginia Department of Biomedical Engineering is among a select group of bioengineering departments to receive a Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Translational Partners Award. The award will provide $580,000 each year for the next five years, for a total of $2.9 million, and will support multiple translational research projects involving biomedical engineering faculty and clinical co-investigators in the School of Medicine.

In addition to mobilizing resources in biomedical and clinical research, the award will allow U.Va. to unite its Health System, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and Patent Foundation to more quickly bring lifesaving technologies to the marketplace. At the end of the five-year period, partner institutions that demonstrate success may be considered for an endowment award to sustain the program.

“We believe our collaborative approach in bringing together teams in basic science to improve patient care, and then working with U.Va.’s engineering and business schools to transfer new technologies to the marketplace will serve as a model for others,” said Arthur Garson Jr., M.D., M.P.H., vice president and dean of the School of Medicine.

“At the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science, we believe that the most innovative research occurs where academic disciplines intersect,” said James H. Aylor (Eng ’68, ’71, ’77), dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “This award enables the partnership between renowned physicians and engineers to continue as they work toward a new era in medical technology.”

To generate discoveries that improve patient care, this partnership will mobilize some of U.Va.’s greatest strengths: a biomedical engineering department ranked 15th by U.S. News & World Report, a medical school ranked 10th among state-assisted schools by U. S. News, a medical center included in Solucient’s 100 Top Hospitals, a graduate business school ranked eighth by Forbes, and an innovative patent foundation. Together, these schools and programs will support promising faculty research projects, nurture collaborations between clinicians and biomedical engineers, and transform the way research breakthroughs move from the lab to the clinic and marketplace.

“Thanks to the Coulter Foundation’s generosity, we will be able to create a new culture that accelerates biomedical technology transfer and commercialization,” said Thomas C. Skalak, Ph.D., professor and chairman of biomedical engineering.

The Coulter award supports the development of technology within the university setting, where prototype testing can occur as faculty members work in teams with on- and off-campus experts. “Through this approach, which we call ‘concurrent engineering,’ good ideas receive attention earlier,” Skalak said. “Health care technologies carefully nurtured in university incubators have the potential to reach the marketplace, where they can help patients much more quickly.”

The Coulter Foundation’s chief objective is better patient outcomes, not just profitable technologies, Skalak added: “The Coulter Foundation is interested in supporting ideas that will improve health care, whether they’re destined to be big moneymakers or distributed free in developing countries.”

Key to the success of the Coulter-U.Va. partnership is an advisory committee comprising faculty entrepreneurs and industry representatives who will counsel the inventors on how to bring their ideas to fruition.

Wallace H. Coulter was an engineer, inventor, entrepreneur and visionary. He was co-founder and chairman of Coulter Corp., a worldwide medical diagnostics company headquartered in Miami, Fla. His awards included the highly prestigious John Scott Award for Scientific Achievement, given to inventors whose innovations have had a revolutionary effect on mankind. The two great passions of his life were applying engineering principles to scientific research, and embracing the diversity of world cultures. Coulter was deeply committed to improving health care and making the improvements available and affordable to everyone.