Rutgers Looks to Lead through Medical Device Development Initiatives

The Department of Biomedical Engineering has opened new labs and launched a certificate program for the design of medical devices as it positions itself as a statewide leader for research, development, education, and training in the field. 

A robust outreach to the business community and alumni will be a priority, as will the expansion of on-line offerings, said David Shreiber, who succeeded Noshir Langrana as department chair July 1.  “We want to take advantage of our location, our alumni and the other programs here at Rutgers in cementing our position as the hub of biomedical engineering in New Jersey,” Shreiber said.

Rutgers has the third largest undergraduate program in biomedical engineering in the country, with more than 350 students enrolled, and its graduate programs also continue to grow. Shreiber said it’s important to tap into the growing alumni network and the school’s location in the heart of an area rich in biomedical research and technology companies. The relationships will generate co-ops and internships for students as well as professional development opportunities for industry that could be a new source of revenue for the university.

The department’s new initiatives include:

  • New labs outfitted for the development of medical devices where users – inside and outside of Rutgers – can prototype and test new ideas. The facilities at the biomedical engineering building include 3D bio printers, acrylic laser cutting equipment, and other advanced features. It is envisioned that the facility will be used by smaller businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize inventions as well as faculty and students, such as those at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  

“It’s like a small startup in the confines of academia,” said Kristen Labazzo, an assistant research professor who is executive director of the initiative. High schools around the state also will be invited to visit the labs as part of an outreach effort to promote the study of biomedical engineering.

  • The recent approval of a five-course Certificate in Medical Device Design and Development for those enrolled in the master’s program or others with graduate degrees seeking professional development. “It’s about taking discoveries from the lab and understanding what it is going to take to bring them to market,” said Shreiber.  In lieu of a traditional thesis, students in the certificate program will submit a business plan based on research and technology from independent study. Shreiber also hopes to offer other short-term courses to the business community and increase remote delivery of those programs.  “We’d like to be the preferred provider for on-line biomedical engineering,” Shreiber said.
  • A medical device seminar series co-sponsored by Healthcare Institute of New Jersey took place in fall 2017 and featured critical issues relevant to industry, like reimbursement, regulation, and cybersecurity.  “Rutgers wants to be seen as the go-to place,” Labazzo said. The seminars followed the launch last semester of a graduate course in Applications in Medical Device Development, which included guest lecturers from industry – and a panel presentation - on topics ranging from design controls and regulatory considerations to marketing. 
  • A pilot program at the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack where 13 rising seniors in the biomedical undergraduate program interacted with severely disabled residents and students with the goal of developing new medical devices to assist them. “Hopefully by using their engineering brains they can see something that would help students in their daily lives,” said Labazzo. The device ideas will be the basis of the students’ senior design projects and could be developed in the new labs. It is hoped the program will continue and expand to other rehab facilities and nursing homes, she said.