Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards six novel biomedical devices with $140,000 total Round-1 2016 Pilot Funding

PITTSBURGH (July 12, 2016) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $140,000 to six research groups through its 2016 Round-1 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include developing a novel vascular access system, a shunt for treatment of fetal hydrocephalus in utero, a system for stroke rehabilitation, a cell therapy for treatment of aortic aneurysm, a method for treatment of sickle cell anemia, and a novel mechanical device for use in general surgery.


CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), 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.

“This is our fifth year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.”




Cameron Dezfulian, MD           

Assistant Professor, Critical Care and Clinical and Translation Medicine Scientist,

Vascular Medicine Institute

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


William Clark, PhD

Professor, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

Swanson School of Engineering


FOR:  Electro-targeted Vascular Access: A novel way to quickly and accurately place peripheral and central venous catheters


Award to design, build and test an advanced vascular catheter and guidance system for rapid, accurate placement in critical care.




Stephen P. Emery, MD

Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


Youngjae Chun, PhD

Assistant Professor

Industrial Engineering Department

Bioengineering Department (Secondary)

Swanson School of Engineering


Stephanie Greene, MD

Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


FOR:  VASFAS (Ventriculo-Amniotic Shunt for Fetal Aqueductal Stenosis).


Continuation award for preclinical testing of a newly developed shunt to treat fetal hydrocephalus in-utero.




Amit Sethi, PhD, OTR/L

Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

University of Pittsburgh


Ervin Sejdić, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Science Engineering

Swanson School of Engineering

University of Pittsburgh


FOR: I-HITS: Individualized hand improvement and tracking system after stroke


Continuation award for development and clinical evaluation of a system to track therapeutic progress in stroke patients with impaired upper extremity function.




Kory Blose

PhD candidate, Bioengineering

University of Pittsburgh


Justin Weinbaum, PhD

Assistant Professor, Bioengineering

University of Pittsburgh


Ryan McEnaney, MD

Division of Vascular Surgery, UPMC


John Curci, MD,

Division of Vascular Surgery, UPMC


FOR:  Minimally invasive delivery of therapeutic cells to abdominal aortic aneurysm.


Award to develop and perform preclinical testing of a new biological therapy for prevention and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm.




Marina V. Kameneva, PhD

Department of Surgery and Bioengineering

McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine


Jonathan H. Waters, MD

Department of Anesthesiology & Bioengineering

Magee Womens Hospital


Mark Gartner, PhD

Department of Bioengineering

University of Pittsburgh


FOR:  Reducing alloimmunization and sickle crisis in SCD patients using a novel method of replacing HbS with donor Hb in patient’s RBCs.


Continuation award to develop and test a new method for reconditioning the blood of sickle cell patients.




Pete Allen, MD.

UPMC Mercy Department of General Surgery


Garth Elias, MD.

UPMC Mercy Department of General Surgery

UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center


Jeffrey S. Vipperman, PhD.

University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering

Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

FOR:  A motorized flexible arm retractor for open abdominal surgery.

Continuation award for development and testing of a novel mechanical device which improves and simplifies the management of surgical devices in the OR.


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 Office of Technology Management (OTM), 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 in cooperation with OTM and in partnership with CTRP.