Research plan

The ERC-RMB research strategic plan emphasizes multi-disciplinary, engineered systems approaches to the development of revolutionary metallic biomaterials-based devices and applications. Scientific reorganization of the enabling technologies and fundamental sciences into research thrusts (Red, Blue and Green Teams) has led to an optimized device mix within each ES. The ERC-RMB ESs are:

  • ES1: Craniofacial and Orthopedic Applications
  • ES2: Cardiovascular and Thoracic Devices
  • ES3: Responsive Biosensors and Neural Applications

The Engineered Systems are driven by three overarching research thrust areas (color coded in our strategic plan) comprised of enabling technologies and fundamental knowledge:

  • Thrust #1: New materials development (Red Team)
  • Thrust #2: Materials processing/characterization and modeling (chemical, physical, mechanical, modeling) (Blue Team)
  • Thrust #3: Biocompatibility testing (Green Team).

These three thrust areas (Red, Blue and Green Teams) work harmoniously to generate revolutionary breakthroughs in multiple areas of patient care leading to the development of medical systems, devices and applications across engineering systems (Grey Team). Renewed research framework also includes the following:

  1. Development of prototype devices and applications was established with a focus on translation of ERC technologies,
  2. Project management principles were applied to support alignment of project activities with overall program objectives,
  3. Grey Team projects developed Elevator Pitch presentations that bring increased focus to research activities and demonstrate alignment of project objectives with clinical need and commercial viability of targeted medical devices, 
  4. QUAD chart approach was implemented to help ensure that projects addressed key unmet needs, and had SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) objectives in place that would focus project teams on those activities that could lead to protectable, commercially viable technologies. 

This renewed focus has led to increased attention from potential industry partners. The strategic research plan is presented below.

In the figure, grey-colored regions relate to Medical Systems R&D – Device/Application or testbed-related activities, red regions correspond to new materials development, blue regions refer to materials processing/characterization and modeling; and green regions indicate biocompatibility testing. In the Center, each of the ESs has multiple projects from these thrust areas, presented in later pages. With this strategic approach we thus build synergies between the targeted medical device systems and expose our students to a broader array of design challenges and expertise integration. The thrust areas also comprise growing research and education competencies within ERC-RMB.
These research thrusts support academic experts working with specific devices and applications to generate new metals and metal alloys that adhere to ES-specific device design objectives. Because device PIs are formally engaged with patients, clinicians, companies and regulators, new biodegradable metals and metal alloys as well as existing commercial biomaterials can be effectively tested for mechanical integrity and biocompatibility relative to each biomedical device. These data ostensibly form the basis of metallic biomaterials feasibility studies with an emphasis on commercialization. Device-based performance data created by research thrusts for each ES can be validated by practitioners prior to costly clinical trials. A feedback loop created between companies, regulators and ERC PIs is enabling all relevant data to be shared between participants regardless of the study boundaries. This strategy focuses ample ERC resources as well as resources available through industry and the regulatory environment on challenges and barriers specific to each ES, thereby accelerating the development and commercialization of revolutionary biomedical devices.