“What we’re trying to do here is build advanced infusion technology for a variety of applications.”
Ellis Meng, USC Viterbi professor of biomedical engineering, has known many titles. In 2009, she was named among the TR35 global innovators — MIT Technology Review’s “top 35 young innovators under 35;” and she is one of the 2012 Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry’s MedTech 40 under 40.
Meng is also the incoming department chair of the USC Viterbi Department of Biomedical Engineering, starting July 1, 2015. Professor Michael Khoo will be the interim chair from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2015.
Meng joined USC in 2004 after graduating from the California Institute of Technology with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Meng is working hard to apply microtechnology to implantable medical devices. Her work includes infusion pumps, wireless sensor systems and neural electrodes
In 2009, Ellis Meng, USC professor of biomedical engineering, was named one of the “35 Top Innovators In The World Under 35” by MIT Technology Review. Her innovative drug pump to treat children with brain cancer (leptomeningeal metastases) is currently being developed at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
Three USC Viterbi engineers have received a prestigious $2-million grant from the National Science Foundation for a joint research project on a wireless, multi-sensor system for the early detection of shunt malfunctions in people with excessive brain fluid.
“I’m pretty thrilled to win this,” said principal investigator Dr. Ellis Meng, an associate professor in biomedical engineering and electrical engineering. “We get to use some of the technologies we’ve been incubating, including sensors that work in water.”
The NSF’s Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) awarded the four-year grant, the second time in recent years that a team of USC researchers has landed the competitive award.
Meng and co-principal investigators Dr. Malancha Gupta, an assistant professor in chemical engineering and materials science, and Dr. James Weiland, Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering, hope to devise a way to embed or integrate sensors into shunts for people with hypocephalus. A chronic, incurable condition characterized by excess fluid in the brain, hypocephalus affects an estimated one in 1,000 newborns and includes symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness.
War is its own kind of trauma. Days filled with strict regimented rules of behavior, constant travel, friends killed in roadside bombings and personal injuries: coming home to American life can be a great shock. Nathan Graeser, a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, often gets calls in the middle of the night from returning soldiers he’s seen at his Burbank office. “For one soldier, things would be frustrating that were never frustrating before,” recalls Graeser. “When he got back, things people complain about in America seemed so trivial.”
Two point four million Americans have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003; that’s 2.4 million stories, and none of them are quite the same. For some veterans, it may take years to figure out how to deal with a missing limb, chronic pain or “invisible wounds”, and oftentimes, not without dramatic disruptions to their families, careers, and even their own identity. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been dealing with reintegration issues for decades—since 1930—providing access to medical care, therapy, and amputee rehabilitation programs through offices around the country.
Now, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is busy bringing the latest technological innovations to bear on the reintegration issues soldiers face. Things like upgraded prosthetics and virtual humans are the future of vet care, and will one day be a tremendously useful resource to places like the VA in their ongoing efforts to support returning soldiers mentally and physically.
Last month, for the first time in 11 years, USC associate professor Ellis Meng found herself raising her hand and asking questions in the classroom – not answering them.
Meng, whose research at USC focuses on developing a tiny, implantable medication-delivery system, is enrolled in a business crash-course sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), learning how to understand customers, develop viable business models and get on the fast track to creating a commercial product.
She was selected in October to receive the foundation’s new Innovation Corps award, which was designed to help researchers get innovative ideas out of the lab and into the real world.
“It’s supposed to kick-start the effort,” said Meng, who teaches biomedical and electrical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
A couple of weeks ago, she and her team flew to Stanford University to attend a three-day business bootcamp.
“We were sort of fed through the firehose,” Meng said. Now back in Los Angeles, she is continuing her education online. In December, Meng’s team and 20 others that have been selected by the NSF will pitch their products and newly developed business strategies for marketing them to a room filled with potential investors.
Meng’s team was among the NSF’s first cohort to receive the six-month, $50,000 award.
Ellis Meng, an associate professor of biomedical and electrical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, stands at the bold crossroads of medical research. She seeks new ways to deliver and monitor drugs for patients through nanotechnology and wireless communication.
Through a grant from the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) and Qualcomm Wireless Health, Meng is working on a system for chronic pain medication for Army veterans, ultimately allowing them to return home and to productive lives.
“It is a challenge to monitor and control chronic pain in patients,” Meng said. “The patient often has to return to the doctor to adjust and assess the pain medication, and doctors need to ensure that pain medications are being delivered consistently and with the right dosage.”
Meng’s team is developing and testing an implanted drug delivery device connected to a wireless network by an external controller for remote monitoring and modification of drug dosage levels. The infusion pumps will allow physicians to track compliance and control of drug delivery regimens in patients remotely.
Southern California researchers working on wireless health technologies recently won commercialization support and research funding through the TATRC/Qualcomm Wireless Health Innovation Challenge. The awards will support UC San Diego work on artificial retinas made from nanowires, a UCLA system that helps people re-learn to walk after a traumatic injury, and USC tools that enable doctors to monitor and modify – from afar – drugs administered by infusion pumps.
The TATRC/Qualcomm Wireless Health Innovation Challenge aims to nurture and accelerate the commercialization of selected wireless health technologies developed in Southern California that have the greatest potential to improve healthcare delivery to U.S. military personnel and their families. The year-long program is hosted by the von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering with its program sponsors, the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) and Qualcomm Wireless Health.
Ellis Meng, Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering, was awarded the Use-Inspired Research Award at the 2011 Annual VSoE Faculty & Staff Awards Luncheon held on Thursday at Town & Gown of USC. In her short time as a young faculty member, Ellis has invented several devices that will revolutionize the way incurable ocular diseases are treated with the potential to benefit the millions of people affected worldwide. This includes implantable intraocular drug pumps, micromachined glaucoma drainage shunts with valves, intraocular pressure sensors, and sutureless tissue anchors. Her innovations also extend to the use of novel implantable drug delivery components and systems for investigating activation of neural networks through real-time neuroimaging and linking behavior to drug addiction, as well as their therapeutic use in the cancer radiation dose reduction and preventing epileptic seizures. She has already received numerous recognitions for her innovations, research, and educational accomplishments.