life science and healthcare establishments


Research expenditures in 2023


Clinical-engineering projects funded


Start-ups from BioE Grads

The University of Pittsburgh is a national and global leader in life sciences research. Its 2023 research expenditures reached $1.16 billion, with a substantial portion devoted to the life sciences. It earned $675M in NIH grants in 2022, ranking third in the nation.

The Pittsburgh region offers the perfect ecosystem for life sciences innovation and commercialization. It counts 5,800+ life science and healthcare establishments that include a mix of large, established medtech manufacturers as well as start-ups and early-stage growth companies.   

Pitt Bioengineering is the focal point of developing and translating Pitt’s know-how into useful therapies and diagnostics. Pitt is also a global leader in its ability to translate this research into inventions (Pitt is top 20 inventive Universities worldwide 2023, according to the National Academy of Inventors) and into start-ups and licenses that bring these innovations to patients: 150 licensing and option agreements including 13 start-ups. 

Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh

Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering (Pitt BioE) consistently ranks in the top departments nationwide: 6th ranked public, top 25 all US schools (US News & World Report, 2023-2024 Edition, America’s Best Graduate Schools). Successful collaboration and translation is institutionally embedded in the Department’s culture since its inception 25 years ago, and also practiced by its faculty through their research initiatives.

"These deep working and collaborative relationships are utilized by Pitt BioE students for getting embeded in clinician-engineer projects during their study, and also internships, career coaching, co-op experiences, and employment. Being at the nexus of an active medtech ecosystem provides a fertile ground to potentially become a co-founder of your own start-up, or be employed at a start-up or at a large, established, multi-national company." 

-Pratap Khanwilkar, PhD, Program Director 

Center for Medical Innovation

Since 2011, department-led university-wide programs have sponsored 81 ($5000-$25,000 support/project) concepts that have promoted engineering-clinician collaboration through the Center for Medical Innovation (CMI). Even though early-stage, CMI-supported projects have led to 15 start-ups and 4 licenses to established companies. CMI funding has helped several projects to win large grants from NIH to support early stage translational research. 

These companies are:

  • Aneurisk
    • Allows artificial intelligence to be coupled with CT scans and other patient data to improve the prognosis and management of abdominal aortic aneurysms.  
  • Respair
    • A Pittsburgh-based medical device company that uilds innovative airway products to support clinicians and patients in critical care environments. 
  • Biocarpet
    • A filly biodegradable electrospun sheet that will treat peripheral artery disease.
  • Popsole
    • Dedicated to finding innovative solutions to hasten healing, limit foot pain and promote comfortable mobility for all.
  • VitalDent
    • A dental delivery system for growth factors that regenerate healthy tooth after root canal therapy. 
  • Aruga
    • Vascular graft and shunt designs engineered to mimic native arteries and prevent thombrosis. 
  • Fibrokine Peptides
    • A novel biologic therapy to prevent fibrosis in wound healing.  
  • Thermaquil
    • Drug-free nerve block devices.
  • Occuderm
    • A drug delivery system for the eye. 
  • Interaction
    • A system for monitoring movement of joints in physical therapy to optimize treatment effectiveness. Licensed to Elizur, Inc. 
  • GrekTek
    • A revolutionary wearable system to detect, monitor, and manage heart conditions like atrial fibrillation. 
  • Atlas Technologies
    • An advanced mechanical fixture for use in abdominal surgery as a retractor and a holding device for surgical tools.  
  • EndoDx
    • A software algorithm for diagnosis of endometreosis using physiological measures. 
  • RegenMatrix 
    • A bioactive hydrogel, designed to mimic the bone regenerative microenvironment, to improve bone regrowth 


Also, 39 later-stage projects ($100,000 -$250,000 support per project) through the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II Program (2011-2022) initiated by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation (Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program recipients), with Coulter@Pitt’s translational outcomes as being best in its cohort of universities, and its courseware adapted by the National Institute of Health for some of its Small Business Innovation Research Grant and other funding mechanisms applicants.

Being later-stage and focused on significant de-risking over the course of Coulter@Pitt support, over 40% of Coulter@Pitt projects have gone on to experience a commercialization event (startup formation, license, or option):

  • Attracted over 260 applications primarily covering medical devices, drug delivery systems, health IT and diagnostics
  • Funded 39 projects and 76 principal investigators with $3.5 million in direct grant support.
  • Enabled formation of 10 licensed startups that have attracted $21 million in funding to the new companies.
  • Enabled 5 licenses and 2 additional options to companies/accelerators.
  • Directly and indirectly impacted 130+ students and 38 departments across Pitt.

Coulter@Pitt start-ups (some were supported in earlier-stage by CMI) are:

  • Atlas MedTech (also supported earlier by CMI), Founder/CEO Joe Marcanio
    • A motorized, flexible arm retractor for open and minimally invasive surgery. 
  • ThreadRite IV, founder Niall Sweeney
    • A detection unit with disposable catheter units, which is designed similarly to standard catheters, adding insulating plastic that leaves only the tip exposed to act as an electrode. 
  • PerioMag GBR
    • A new dental bone grafting technology that reduces pain and healing time for patients AND reduces surgical time for oral surgeons and periodontists. 
  • Neurogel, Founder/CEO Lorenzo Soletti
    • A flexible, easy to use gel that promotes nerve regeneration and restoration of function for patients suffering from peripheral nerve injury and the clinicians who serve them.
  • Koutif Therapeutics
    • Aims to develop therapuetic compounds that inhibit the inflammatory cascade in a unique manner.
  • Lumis
    • Aims to disrupt traditional clinical and healthcare training experienceby making it more immersive, accessible, and efficient. 
  • Neurospur
  • SkinJect
    • The device comprises a dissolvable microneedle array (MNA) to deliver a drug directly into the top layer of skin. The drug will kill non-melanoma skin cancer by causing an immune systerm reaction to combat the disease. 
  • FormaBone
  • NanoVision Diagnostics
    • A novel electro-optical cancer diagnostic system. The company develops an optical biomarker intended to offer cancer detection services that conduct an optical analysis of a standard biopsy slide to detect molecular changes in nuclear structure not detectable by pathology that enables medical practitioners to detect and treat cancer in the early stages. 

Opportunities for MS-MPE Students

For MS-MPE students to looking to get involved, innovation and entrepreneurship competitions and award programs abound, and our students have always had significant participation and often come out as winners. Instances include the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh®) led by Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and the Big Idea Center, which supports student innovation and entrepreneurship.

These programs select, mentor, and facilitate working relationships between bioengineers, clinicians, and industry. As a result of these translational efforts, Pitt BioE has deep relationships world-class advisors from domains such as venture capital, angel investors, regulatory affairs, manufacturing, marketing, clinical trials, reimbursement, and entrepreneurship.

Contact Us
BioE MS-MPE Program