Bioengineering is top-ranked biomedical engineering program in Colorado; moves up by 10 in national rankings

The bioengineering graduate program moved up 10 spots in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Graduate Schools Report, published March 12. The program is now ranked number 69 in the country, and is the top-ranked biomedical program in Colorado.

Kudos to Dr. Robin Shandas, founding chair and professor, and his team of faculty and staff for this achievement. The bioengineering program has gained national recognition in less than 10 years of its establishment, which speaks volumes to the quality of bioengineering research and teaching taking place at CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Read the CU Denver Today story about all CU Denver rankings.

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JDRF Fellowship awarded to Farnsworth

farnsworth_headshotDr. Nikki Farnsworth, a Research Instructor working in the lab of Dr. Richard Benninger, was recently awarded a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Advanced-Postdoctoral Fellowship to study novel mechanisms of pancreatic β-cell death and to exploit these mechanisms to protect against the onset and progression of type 1 diabetes (T1D).

The goals of Dr. Farnsworth’s project are to determine the role of protein kinase C delta in regulating inflammation-mediated β-cell death and to determine the contributions of altered islet interactions with the extracellular matrix to β-cell death in T1D. This study will identify novel mechanisms of β-cell death during the onset of T1D using quantitative live cell imaging and a biomimetic 3D scaffold and will determine if modulation of these novel signaling mechanisms can protect against the onset of T1D.

Kravets receives JDRF postdoc fellowship award

kravets_photoDr. Vira Kravets, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Richard Benninger’s lab was recently awarded the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship: an award for promising scientists entering their professional career in the type 1 diabetes research field. The fellowship will support understanding heterogeneity of insulin-producing beta cells and their calcium response to glucose. In collaboration with the University of Miami Dr. Kravets will study alternations in beta cell subpopulations of the encapsulated islets for transplantation therapy. One of the potential outcomes of this collaboration is improvement of transplantation of stem-cell-derived islets.

Cecilia Clark takes 3rd place in campus wide Three Minute Thesis Competition

Clark-HeadshotNiki Clark is a PhD student in Dr. Bodine’s Socially Assistive Robotics lab. She received her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Biology, and she now works on developing a clinical augmentation tool for young children with complex cerebral palsy. Her current focus is on applying machine learning techniques to allow the robot to recognize each child’s movements, with an emphasis on behavior-based control to ensure the robot mimics movements that clinicians would make during therapeutic interaction. This work has been a collaboration across multiple disciplines that include Bioengineering, Computer Science, Early Childhood Education, and Industrial Design.

VeDepo receives AHA postdoctoral grant

VedepoDr. Mitchell VeDepo, a Postdoctoral Fellow of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver, was recently awarded a postdoctoral grant by the American Heart Association (AHA). This award will help propel Dr. VeDepo’s project on the recellularization mechanisms for heart valve tissue engineering.

Valvular heart disease remains a significant cause of morbidity world wide and there is currently no ideal valve replacement. Dr. VeDepo’s project will help ‘build’ an ideal heart valve replacement through heart valve tissue engineering. This study will investigate the recruitment of autologous circulating cells for repopulating decellularized heart valve scaffolds using signaling chemokines and a novel bioreactor system. The results of this study will elucidate the recruitment of circulating cells and may lead to enhanced in situ recellularization of tissue engineered heart valves.

Summer in Guatemala helping improve water quality

In June 2018 just after completing her bachelor’s in Bioengineering from CU Denver/Anschutz Samantha Sharrar traveled with Gabriela Reyes, a current Masters in Public Health student to the CU Trifinio Clinic site in rural Guatemala for three weeks. Cassandra Howard, a Bioengineering Instructor, joined the students for the first week of their trip. The focus of the trip was the implementation of a water quality assessment project. Samantha and Gabby trained local Youth Leaders on how to use field incubators to run water quality tests on 3M™ Petrifilms. As part of the junior design course, students designed the field incubators. Samantha, Gabby and the Youth Leaders worked with community members to obtain water samples, plate the samples on the 3M™ Petrifilms and then incubate the films for 48 hours in the battery-powered field incubators. The results were then presented back to the community in a demonstration led by the youth leaders to educate community members on the importance of filtering or boiling water. One additional component of the project that was trialed during the trip was a smartphone app, built by Samantha to help automate the interpretation and data storage of the water assessments. This project was an initial pilot program for the Department of Bioengineering. The Department is now offering a 3 credit 2-week faculty-led Global Health Design course in May/June 2019. The Bioengineering faculty and students involved in the project want to thank Dr. Dan Olson, Dr. Elizabeth Carlton, Dr. Molly Lamb, Cristina Del Hoyo, Gabby Reyes, and the staff and youth leaders at the Trifinio site. 

Biomedical startup acquired by global medical technology firm

A medical device company founded by two University of Colorado Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus professors was recently acquired by Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies.

Dr. Omer Mei-Dan, a sports surgeon and associate professor of orthopedics at the CU School of Medicine and Dr. Robin Shandas, chair of bioengineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus collaborated on the Pivot Guardian, the industry’s first post-free hip distraction system, designed to mitigate groin complications and heel slip associated with hip arthroscopy.

Working with Dr. Jacob Segil, Instructor in Engineering Plus at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Brett Schumer, an orthopedic device consultant, Drs. Mei-Dan and Shandas created MITA LLC to bring Dr. Mei-Dan’s novel hip distraction technique to market. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The acquisition shows the impact of pairing clinical faculty with bioengineers to bring promising ideas to market. The total time between initial discussions and company exit was less than two years.

“The fact that our Bioengineering Department is located on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus really facilitates such multi-disciplinary interactions,” said Professor Shandas, founding chair of the department who has co-founded several other companies with clinical faculty. “We built a technical team very quickly to execute on Dr. Mei-Dan’s vision to help his patients, while at the same time building the startup company to carry the idea into commercial reality.”

Dr. Mei-Dan agreed.

“Having biomedical engineers as in-house partners who can quickly understand the clinical need, assemble a business-savvy technical team, and iterate through multiple prototypes efficiently is a huge great asset we have here on campus,” he said. “This great success gives me much confidence for future endeavors.”

Provided by CU Anschutz Medical Campus