Leadership Awards, first announced in May 1996, take advantage of extraordinary opportunities for developing or enhancing the biomedical engineering infrastructure at major research universities and medical schools in the United States. There is no set limit on the award amounts, but applicant institutions must commit matching funds.
Both Hopkins and UCSD previously received $5-million Development Awards from the foundation to enhance their biomedical engineering programs. The Leadership Awards will fund the continued growth of those programs at both institutions.
Biomedical engineering is a relatively new discipline that grew out of informal collaborations between engineers, physicians and life scientists. Over the past 20 to 30 years, more than 80 academic biomedical engineering departments and programs have been created in the United States. It is the fastest growing engineering discipline at most universities. The field has made major contributions to cost-effective medical care with such advances as total hip-joint replacements, heart pacemakers and defibrillators, the heart-lung machine, diagnostic imaging, and engineered human skin for transplant.
The Whitaker Foundation, created in 1975, has based its grant programs on the belief that engineering can help solve medical problems and improve the quality of life. The foundation, with assets of approximately $400 million, plans to terminate at the end of 2006. So far this year, it has awarded $87 million to support biomedical engineering.