PITTSBURGH (April 28, 2021) ... The current COVID-19 pandemic has not only shaken the
healthcare industry but also delivered more than a year of social and economic
disruption across the globe. During this time, innovators at the University of
Pittsburgh quickly adapted their research to meet new safety standards and managed
to tackle the effects of the pandemic.
On April 22, the Innovation Institute recognized Pitt faculty,
students and staff who thrived, despite these unprecedented circumstances, at
its 2020-2021 Celebration of Innovation.
William Federspiel, John A. Swanson Professor of
Bioengineering, received the Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award for his
consistent dedication to achieving societal impact through commercial
application of his research. This prestigious award honors Professor Mickle, a
Pitt innovator who holds the University record for invention disclosures filed,
patents issued, and startups formed.
“I am honored and thankful to be this year’s recipient of
the Marlin Mickle Innovation Award. I’m also humbled knowing many of the past
recipients of this award,” said Federspiel, who also holds appointments in
chemical engineering, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, critical
care medicine, and the Clinical Translation Institute. “This award has personal
meaning for me. I always knew Marlin to be a scholar and an innovator, but
through conversation, I recognized that he was the ultimate gentleman and
Federspiel directs the Medical Devices Laboratory wherein clinically
significant devices are developed for the treatment of pulmonary and
cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and
mass transfer. He is also a co-founder of ALung
Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device company, at which he now
serves as head of the scientific advisory board.
Among Federspiel’s innovations is the Hemolung® Respiratory
Assist System (RAS), a minimally invasive device that does the work of the
lungs by removing carbon dioxide from the blood. During the coronavirus
pandemic, the device received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration as a treatment for COVID-19.
“It is an amazingly rewarding experience to develop technologies
that help save lives,” Federspiel said. “[ALung Technologies] did an amazing
job creating the Hemolung RAS system that was seeded in my laboratory.
“Last year we experienced the beginning of a once in a
lifetime pandemic. While I was already proud that the Hemolung RAS device was
in FDA clinical trials for approval, I was ecstatic when I learned the company
sought and obtained EUA authorization from the FDA to treat severe COVID-19
patients,” he added. “Obviously, these are circumstances I would have never
envisioned 25 years ago when I joined Pitt. It came from the hard work of many
individuals both at the University and the company.”
here to watch Dr. Federspiel’s acceptance speech.
To date, 97 COVID-19 patients have been treated using the Hemolung®
RAS device, and the company has experienced increased demand as a result of the
Federspiel has developed additional artificial lung
platforms that combine fiber technology with cellular and biomolecular
components to create biohybrid artificial lung tissue and bioactive hollow
fibers. Some of his other innovations include a membrane and particle-based
blood purification devices for use in critical care settings; improved
transport models for drug delivery from nanoparticles and microparticles; and
oxygen depletion devices for blood storage systems that will extend the shelf
life of red cell units and deliver red cells of higher efficacy and lower
toxicity for transfusion therapy.
publication is one of the core activities of academia, the ultimate goal of
bioengineering research is to make a real-world impact, e.g., improve health
care. Bill has dedicated his career to translating novel research findings into
improved treatments of cardiopulmonary diseases – this is perhaps his highest contribution,”
said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of
During his time at Pitt, Federspiel has submitted 32
invention disclosures, been issued 14 patents, and has had his work licensed 11
times. He is an elected Fellow of several prestigious professional
organizations such as the National Academy of Inventors, the Biomedical
Engineering Society, the American Institute for Medical and Biological
Engineering, and the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs. In 2019,
he received the Carnegie Science Award for Life Sciences.
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Contact: Leah Russell