MEDRC: a new paradigm for medical care from concept to delivery

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“A radical change is taking place in how medical care is being delivered, with care delivery moving to ‘point of care’ rather than having patients travel to a doctor’s office or hospital,” said Charles Sodini, LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT and founder of the Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) at MIT.

For several years, researchers in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL), the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), and the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity (LMP), have been building the momentum for establishing a new collaborative center to unite the MIT research community with the medical community and the microelectronics and medical device industries. The desired end goal is to create a new paradigm for medical care from concept to delivery. In the process, this effort is adding to the momentum to establish Boston as the “Silicon Valley of medical electronic systems.”

The Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) at MIT was announced by MIT News Office press release on May 27, 2011. In collaboration with Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) and GE Global Research, the center will aim to create revolutionary improvements in multiple areas of the medical industry, including electronic devices, diagnostics and treatments, and technologies to enable information-driven health-care systems. The goal is to collaboratively achieve improvements in the cost and performance of medical electronic devices similar to those that have occurred in personal computers, communication devices and consumer electronics. Innovations in the usability and productivity of medical devices, and new technologies and approaches to manufacture devices will all be part of the realization of this goal.

The MEDRC website describes its approach: “The unique research methodology of the MEDRC begins with the project definition. Research activities are jointly defined by faculty, physicians and clinicians, and industrial partners. Visiting scientists from microelectronic and medical device companies, physically resident at the Center, provide the industrial viewpoint in the project definitions and participate in the realization of the technology. Prototype system architectures are developed that can be used in clinical tests early in the project to help guide the research technology being developed in parallel.”

The MEDRC was founded and is directed by Charlie Sodini, LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering (Microsystems Technology Laboratories); Brian W. Anthony, Director of the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Program (Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity), and Joel Voldman, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (Research Laboratory of Electronics and Microsystems Technology Laboratories). The MEDRC will serve as a focal point for large business, for venture-funded startups, and for the medical community. The Center will foster the creation of prototype devices and intellectual property and aims to serve as the catalyst for the deployment of innovative healthcare technology that will reduce the cost of healthcare in both the developed and developing world.

“A healthcare revolution in which modern medical devices are bringing the hospital, laboratory and physician into a patient’s home is well underway,” said Patrick O’Doherty, vice president of Healthcare Group at Analog Devices. “ADI is excited to work with MIT on researching new technology that furthers this movement and gives patients more control over their health and wellness.”

In addition to partnering with researchers at Analog Devices, MEDRC collaboration will include GE Global Research, the cornerstone for GE technology for over 100 years.

GE researchers are building more intelligence into ultrasound probes in effort to achieve higher quality images and aid in the diagnosis of disease. This project will enable a wider range of health care providers to perform scans and ultimately, hopes to make ultrasound much more accessible in regions where healthcare services are limited. Brian Anthony is the lead investigator along with MIT graduate students Matthew Gilbertson and Shih-Yu Sun working with GE researchers on a project to simplify routine ultrasound measurements and improve the quality and diagnostic capabilities of ultrasound imaging.

The Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) is currently located at 60 Vassar St., 39-527 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is anticipated that more member companies will be added in the year ahead.

What will this center mean to the biomedical-technology rich Boston area?

Joel Voldman responds: “Boston is already a biomedical research hub, and Massachusetts is a leader in medical devices. With the MEDRC we can combine those strengths with MIT’s proven history of working with industry, including the microelectronics industry, to enable the development of this next generation of medical electronic devices in the Boston area. Further, by having industry researchers on-site, this will naturally lead to member companies wanting to establish physical presences in the Boston area.

What does this mean for MIT and specifically for EECS students?

Voldman, whose focus is on point-of-care devices, which will likely utilize microfluidic technologies, and whose role as faculty is to mentor student researchers, foresees a prominent collaboration with MIT students. “The research in the MEDRC will be performed by students, and so the creation of the MEDRC directly generates another set of research activities that students will participate in. A good fraction of those students will be EECS students by the very nature of the focus of the MEDRC.”

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