Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Jan

Jan
23
2018

Pitt Chemical Engineering research group is one of five winners of international Circular Materials Challenge

Chemical & Petroleum

DAVOS, Switzerland (January 23, 2018) … Each year more than eight million tons of plastics pollute the ocean, forming mammoth, so-called “garbage patches” via strong currents. Even with new collection methods, only 0.5 percent out of that volume is currently removed from the seas. One solution to this growing crisis is to prevent plastic from becoming waste to begin with – and researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are one of five international teams awarded for their novel solutions to this problem. Today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and NineSigma announced the winners of the Circular Materials Challenge. The winners will each receive a $200,000 share of the $1 million prize. Together with the winners of the earlier $1 million Circular Design Challenge last October, these innovations will join a 12-month accelerator program in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, working with experts to make their innovations marketable at scale. The Pitt team represents the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and includes Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor and Co-Director of the University’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, Assistant Professor Susan Fullerton, and Associate Professor Sachin Velankar. The group was one of two winners in Category 1: “Make unrecyclable packaging recyclable,” and proposes using nano-engineering to create a recyclable material that can replace complex multi-layered packaging – mimicking the way nature uses just a few molecular building blocks to create a huge variety of materials. “Over the past few years I had noted with interest that industries such as automotive, home appliance, and even aluminum cans were transforming their business models from traditional products to services, where goods are designed to be recovered and reused,” Dr. Beckman said. “By contrast, the paradigm of the chemical industry has, for 150 years, been short lifetime and single use. In fact, one study found that the United States only recycles nine percent of its plastic waste, well behind Europe (30 percent) and China (25 percent). 1 “Since simple plastics are composed of molecules that can be manipulated to perform various functions, I wondered whether we could transform a molecule from a product to service, with the most interesting applications of this being textiles and packaging.” According to Dr. Beckman, current packaging layers for food products and drink containers are made of several different materials that are responsible for maintaining freshness, blocking UV light, holding inks for labeling, etc. Because the initial manufacturing process, the layers cannot be easily separated and therefore cannot be recycled. The Pitt team’s solution is to alter the nano-structure of polyethylene – simple plastic – to mimic the properties of other complex materials (such as PET, EVOH, or even aluminum) in current laminate packaging. Since the basic chemistry of each layer would remain polyethylene, the packaging can then be collected with other plastics and recycled using traditional methods, removing it from the waste stream. The importance to reducing and reusing plastic is clear: according to the foundation’s 2016 New Plastic Economy report, by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight), and the entire plastics industry will consume 20 percent of total oil production, and 15 percent of the annual carbon budget. Wendy Schmidt, Lead Philanthropic Partner of the foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, noted, “The technical innovations developed by our winners are exactly what is needed to begin to address the wasteful material culture of the past century that is creating increasing amounts of microplastics and plastic debris on our shorelines, in our oceans, landfills and even our own bodies.” “Creating recyclable packaging is one of the toughest challenges if we want to create a true circular economy in the U.S., since tens of millions of tons of packaging waste go straight to the landfill each year,” Dr. Beckman said. “We hope that our design not only can set a new standard for high-performing and recyclable plastics, but will stimulate people to think about other ways in which we can transform molecular products to services by mirroring nature and taking advantage of nanostructure building blocks.” ### 1“Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean.” Science 13 Feb 2015: Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 768-771. DOI: 10.1126/science.1260352 View/download the full-scale image above. Read the Circular Materials Challenge news release from the New Plastics Economy. Read the Ellen MacArthur Foundation news release.

Jan
22
2018

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards five novel biomedical devices with $115,000 total Round-2 2017 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (January 22, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $115,000 to five engineering and medicine groups through its 2017 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include proposed solutions to conditions such as peripheral artery disease, pulmonary fibrosis, improving auditory pathology detection, improved wound healing and repair, and a better means to perform root canal surgery. The Center for Medical Innovation, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare. “We have an extremely strong cohort from our 2017 Round 2 funding,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “The collaboration between engineering and medicine at Pitt provides a fertile setting for novel medical technology, and so we’re proud to give these researchers funding to take their ideas to the next level.” AWARD 1: A structurally and mechanically tunable Biocarpet for peripheral arterial diseaseDevelopment of a prototype “Biocarpet” that is mechanically and topographically tunable and can be used to treat complex peripheral artery disease. This will help treat long lesions in peripheral arteries that have multiple stenoses. Jonathan P. Vande Geest, PhD Professor of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Kang Kim, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and secondary appointment in Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering William R. Wagner, PhD Professor of Surgery University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Director, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and secondary in Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering John J. Pacella, MD, MS Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and Vascular Medicine Institute Kenneth J. Furdella Graduate Student, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 2: FibroKine: CXCL10 Biomimetic Peptides for Treatment of Pulmonary Fibrosis Development of an inhaled aerosol delivery system will achieve target organ specificity and efficient delivery to the lung. This will specifically aid patients who suffer from Pulmonary Fibrosis. Cecelia C. Yates, PhD Assistant Professor of Health Promotion and Development, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing Timothy E. Corcoran, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and secondary appointments in departments of Bioengineering and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Zariel I. Johnson, PhD Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Health Promotion and Development, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing Christopher Mahoney, M.S. PhD Candidate, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 3: Hearing for Health: Single Unit Hearing Screener and AmplifierDevelopment of a wearable product that will allow health care professionals to quickly screen individuals for hearing loss. The device would also further provide sound amplification for those individuals with difficulty hearing. Catherine V. Palmer, PhD Program Director and Associate Professor, Audiology Program, Department of Communication Science & Disorders, University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; and Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Jeffrey S. Vipperman, PhD Professor and Department Vice-Chair of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 4: Gel-based reconstructive matrix for treating orbital trauma and periocular woundsDevelopment of a novel ocular trauma management system, for immediate response to injuries that occur to the areas including and surrounding the eye. Morgan Fedorchak, PhD Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Clinical & Translational Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; secondary appointment in Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering; and Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration Jenny Yu, MD, FACS Assistant Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical Operations Department of Ophthalmology, UPMC Eye Center; and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology,  University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Michael Washington, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine AWARD 5: Vital-Dent, a Revitalizing Root Canal SolutionDevelopment of a novel device to regenerate vital tooth pulp after root canal therapy. Vital pulp will help protect the tooth from future infection and injury, reducing the need for tooth extraction, implants and dentures. Juan Taboas, PhD Department of Oral Biology, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine; secondary appointment, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering; and Center for Craniofacial Regeneration, McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine Herbert Lee Ray Jr., DMD Assistant Professor of Endodontics and Director, Graduate Endodontic Residency Program, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine; and Center for Craniofacial Regeneration, McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine Jingming Chen, B.S. Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering; and Center for Craniofacial Regeneration, McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine ### About the Center for Medical Innovation The Center for Medical Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering is a collaboration among the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. Over 50 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $1 million since inception.

Jan
11
2018

Back-to-back Journal Covers for Pitt Research Teams

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 11, 2018) … The covers of the Tissue Engineering, Part A and Advanced Healthcare Materials scientific journals in December highlighted two projects originating from the Swanson School of Engineering’s Little Lab, which focuses on developing biomimetic therapies for human injury and disease. “While it’s a coincidence that the two covers appeared in the same week, this achievement showcases the excellent work to change the paradigm of how we treat disease being done by all the team members of the Little Lab and its collaborators,” said Steven R. Little, chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and co-author of the two papers. Both projects—one a research paper and the other a review—dealt with topics in “controlled delivery” and involved multi-disciplinary teams of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh departments of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Bioengineering, Orthopaedic Surgery, and Ophthalmology. “The research paper proposes a cell-free approach to bone engineering based on the directing the migration of the body own stem cells, while the review discusses innovative approaches to treat inflammatory eye diseases,” said Riccardo Gottardi, research assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a co-author of the two papers. Dr. Gottardi has a second appointment in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and helps Dr. Little run the Little Lab. The cover of Tissue Engineering, Part A featured an image from the study “Programmed Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-BB and Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 Delivery from a hybrid Calcium Phosphate/Alginate Scaffold” (DOI: 10.1089/ten.tea.2017.0027). The research paper described using a three-dimensional scaffold for releasing growth-stimulating proteins in a controlled manner to treat bone fractures that aren’t healing properly. The lead author of the paper was Emily Bayer, who recently graduated from her position as a trainee in the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER) Training Program. Bayer was a member of the Little Lab while working on the paper. The research team was joined by Abhijit Roy, research assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering, and Prashant N. Kumta, the Edward R. Weidlein Chair Professor with tenure at the Swanson School of Engineering and School of Dental Medicine.The cover of Advanced Healthcare Materials featured a graphic for the study “Ocular Therapeutics: Modern Therapeutic Approaches for Noninfectious Ocular Diseases Involving Inflammation” (DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201700733). The paper reviewed inflammatory eye disease treatments and was led by co-first authors Michelle L. Ratay and Elena Bellotti. Ratay, a graduate student researcher in the Department of Bioengineering, and Dr. Bellotti, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, are both members of the Little Lab. Both projects examined topics in "controlled delivery" and involved multi-disciplinary teams of researchers from the Swanson School of Engineering. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer