In hopes of pushing R&D in mobile and wireless healthcare and other medical devices, and to commercialize promising concepts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is teaming with two industry heavyweights to create Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) on the school's Cambridge, Mass., campus.
"We want to be able to do research that goes out in the real world and has impact," explains Brian W. Anthony, director of the master's of engineering in manufacturing program in MIT's Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity. Anthony is one of three leaders of MEDRC, a joint project of several MIT departments, Norwood, Mass.-based Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) and GE Global Research, Niskayuna, N.Y.
The center will augment R&D activities at ADI and GE, help MIT commercialize some of its breakthroughs in medical devices and connect the two companies with venture-funded startup businesses and medical professionals. Mobile and wireless will be key to these efforts. "We want to get technology increasingly out of the hospital and into the hands of general practitioners and into the hands of patients," Anthony tells MobiHealthNews.
"Analog Devices is excited to work with MIT on researching new technologies that further the movement of bringing technology into the home and enable medical devices companies to design the next generation of portable, affordable and reliable patient monitoring systems," Patrick O'Doherty, vice president of ADI's Healthcare Group, says in a press release. A company spokeswoman says O'Doherty is out of the country and unavailable for further comment.
According to Anthony, MEDRC will be focusing on five modalities:
1. Wearable devices (a cuffless blood-pressure monitor is in the works);
2. Minimally invasive monitors, such as one that can take EEG measurements of epilepsy patients;
3. Point-of-care instruments, like what Anthony describes as a "lab on a chip";
5. Data communications, which Anthony calls "the last centimeter" of connectivity between patient and healthcare professional.
Anthony personally is leading a joint MIT-GE research project to create an ultrasound probe that produces better, more actionable images and is easier to use than current models. "We're looking for a way for less-skilled and –trained technicians to get good images," Anthony explains. This will help extend the reach of diagnostic imaging to more people and perhaps improve on GE Healthcare's Vscan handheld ultrasound device.
"When you have a small, portable device, you're not going to have a large display," Anthony says, making it imperative to produce a higher-quality image. So, MIT researchers are looking at how to increase the signal-to-noise ratio.
"A major focus of GE’s Healthymagination vision for the future is in innovating to reduce healthcare costs, increase access and improve quality around the world. In line with this vision is our interest in bringing ultrasound technology to more patients in areas where healthcare access may be inadequate," Dr. Kai Thomenius, GE Global Research chief technologist for diagnostics and biomedical technologies, says in a GE press release. "We want to enable the next generation of ultrasound systems to have the intelligence to aid in the diagnosis of common medical issues, so that we can reach more patients in need of this imaging technology."