USC awarded multi-million dollar engineering research center by National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Southern California $17 million to fund a new center that is expected to move the Los Angeles region to the forefront of the growing biotechnology industry.

With this award, USC becomes one of only four universities in the country - and the only one in California - to have two of these coveted centers operating concurrently. (The others are at MIT, Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.)

The new Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems (BMES) center will:

  • Coordinate groundbreaking programs at USC, Caltech and UC Santa Cruz on the development of "biomimetic" devices designed to replace damaged or diseased systems in the human body;
  • Support educational programs in local schools designed to help high school students prepare for careers in research, and work with other local colleges to develop job-training skills in the high-tech biotechnology industry; and
  • Develop industry partnerships that will encourage the transfer of this technology to the marketplace.

Mark Humayun, a USC professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering and co-developer of a retinal implant that has received wide attention for its potential to restore sight, will direct the new center.

"The work of this center will extend the microelectronics revolution in medicine - which includes such implanted devices as the pacemaker and the cochlear implant - to the realm of the central nervous system," he said.

"We're going to implant into people devices that will communicate with tissue and treat incurable diseases such as blindness, paralysis and memory loss."

The NSF grant is expected to total $34 million over 10 years (in two $17 million installments), which will enable the integration of three separate biomedical research programs at USC, each of which is focused on developing electronic replacements for lost neural function. The grant

Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California

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