New Collaboration Launches to Advance Technology for Children’s Health
On January 12, clinicians, engineers, scientists, and administrators from UCSF, UC Berkeley. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) convened at the Mission Bay campus for the inaugural Engineering for Children’s Health Symposium. The event, reported in UCSF News, marked the launch of a collaborative effort dedicated to developing innovative technological solutions to improve patient safety, eliminate health disparities, cure disease, and end disability for children.
UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks delivered opening remarks, alongside UCSF School of Medicine Dean Talmadge King and UC Berkeley College of Engineering Dean Shankar Sastry. The presence of joint leadership was symbolic of the collective effort. “Over the last few years, we’ve been working together to forge ever more connection between our two campuses,” said Dirks. “With collaborations like this, we can begin to deliver on the promise of bioengineering.”
The program included research talks, demos, and a panel discussion by leaders from each institution on ways to harness their faculty and trainees’ creativity to address unmet needs in pediatrics. Moving forward, the Engineering for Children’s Health Initiative aims to serve as a hub to help researchers and clinicians develop novel devices and technologies in pediatrics by providing seed funding and facilitating cross-campus partnerships.
Virtual-reality technologies geared towards alleviating pain and anxiety in hospitalized children were among the technologies showcased in the demo sessions, which included VR headsets by KindVR and Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB along with a medical exoskeleton for spinal cord injury patients in development by the Berkeley startup SuitX.
The development of new devices and technology for children’s health is often overlooked by industry because the markets are smaller compared with health care for adults.
To help kick-start innovative projects at the intersection of technology and medicine, UC San Francisco has joined with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) and UC Berkeley to form the Engineering for Children’s Health Initiative.
“We are poised to make advances at the intersection of biology and technology, and there is no greater mission than helping the most vulnerable populations worldwide, children and infants,” said Hanmin Lee, MD, surgeon-in-chief at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and co-director of the new initiative.
Already, artificial kidneys, magnets that correct skeletal deformities, and virtual-reality therapy for pain management are among the new technologies being developed at UCSF to advance children’s health.
Implications for Fetal Surgery
Still others are looking to advance technologies used in fetal surgery. Tippi Mackenzie, MD, associate professor of surgery, is researching stem cell transplants in fetuses for alpha thalassemia and other blood disorders. Her studies suggest that the fetus can learn to tolerate foreign cells it encounters during development.