Combining medical expertise, engineering innovation and cutting-edge technology, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Drexel University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) have come together to form the first biomedical technology center in the region geared specifically for infants and children. Located at Saint Peter’s, The MedTech Center for Infants and Children will develop leading device technology to improve pediatric care.
The Center’s founding members announced the partnership today, expressing their belief that the unprecedented collaboration will allow for the successful and expedient integration of pediatric medicine and engineering. “Pediatric intensive care relies heavily upon technology for successful treatment in a wide variety of disorders,” said Dr. Harel Rosen, director of the Center and director of the Infant Apnea Center at Saint Peter’s. “Unfortunately, today’s state-of-the-art technology used in this treatment fails to address a number of important medical issues in the pediatric and neonatal populations, limiting our potential to provide ideal care.”
According to Rosen, new biomedical technology typically targets adults, not children. Therefore, medical advancements are used to diagnose and treat adults well before they’re used to treat children, slowing technological progress in this area. “We intend to flip the whole model of biomedical technology,” said Rosen. “We will achieve a critical mass of interaction among scientists, clinicians and engineers to create a constant flow of new innovation for the treatment of infants and children.”
The group envisions a building to be erected on Saint Peter’s campus in the future. Here, clinicians and engineers will work together to brainstorm new technologies and evaluate how they work and can be improved. Laboratories at partner engineering schools will also serve as sites for initial technical development. The Center has identified and initiated work on several programs, including brain oxygen monitoring, rapid detection of infection, heart rate variability analysis and a new form of light treatment for jaundiced infants.
The Center, established as a not-for-profit entity, will rely on corporate donations and possibly State and Federal appropriations to support active projects, research and operating costs. “All funding we gather will go into the work and operation of the Center,” said Rosen.
“Ultimately, the technology created to care for infants and children will generate the necessary funds to keep the operation running. Furthermore, commercialization of this technology will contribute to our region’s economic growth and ensure that New Jersey continues to be known for its excellence in health care.”
The founding members chose New Brunswick as its location for its culturally diverse community rich in academic and medical resources. The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s cares for more infants and children than any other children’s hospital in the state with more than 9,000 patients every year. “Saint Peter's offers an ideal venue for this exciting enterprise because of its long history of leadership in newborn and pediatric medicine,” said Dr. Mark Hiatt, founding member of the Center and director of neonatology at Saint Peter’s. “By housing the Center in such a rich, academic region, we believe it will serve as a resource and as a means to nurture and expand our ability to provide superior pediatric and neonatal medicine.”
Another critical asset of the northern New Jersey locale is NJIT's participation in the Center. As New Jersey's leading public technological university, NJIT will focus engineering and science know-how on medical problems faced by infants and children. As William Hunter, Ph.D., founding member of the Center and chairman of biomedical engineering at NJIT, pointed out, “We're already actively working on several projects to improve children's health, and we expect substantial synergy to evolve by forming a partnership with Saint Peter's.”
Current NJIT projects include a New Jersey state-funded effort to improve treatment for hydrocephalus, a foundation-funded effort to develop non-invasive blood sugar sensors for childhood-onset diabetes, and a federally funded program to train engineers in the fabrication of micro-scale biomedical devices, which will be critical in applications to infant care. “The Center will bring to fruition concepts and designs never before thought of in terms of pediatric care,” said Hunter.
Drexel University, a nationally recognized leader in bioengineering research and development, has on its faculty some of the world’s leading experts in the field. The University’s School of Biomedical Engineering has a specific interest in pediatric bioengineering, according to Banu Onaral, Ph.D., founding member of the Center and the School’s director.
“Over the years, many Drexel biomedical engineering faculty and students have worked on research and development projects focused on medical devices or systems aimed to serve infants and children,” said Onaral. “This partnership supports our mission to introduce new technologies specifically conceived and designed for pediatric populations, taking into account their particular needs.”
The MedTech Center for Infants and Children is a not-for-profit, multi-disciplinary entity that will promote and foster basic and clinical research in pediatric biomedical engineering and technology. The partnership of Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Drexel University and NJIT will generate groundbreaking technological advancements for improved pediatric care. Technology developed by the Center will be of international benefit in both pediatric and adult medical fields. For more information on The MedTech Center for Infants and Children, please call 732-745-8600, ext. 8523.