At the Heart of OC’s Medical Technology Ecosystem | UCI News

Experts from the National Institutes of Health say people lucky enough to survive contact with COVID-19 may experience poor cardiovascular health in the future due to the infection. As these millions of people join others with heart disease – the leading killer of men and women around the world – the need for affordable, accessible and advanced treatment becomes more urgent.

Scientists and engineers at the UCI Edwards Lifesciences Foundation Cardiovascular Innovation and Research Center have been anticipating this result since the early days of the pandemic. Anna Grosberg, associate professor of biomedical engineering, assembled a team of her doctoral, master’s and undergraduate students for a project to study the impact of coronavirus hypoxia on the heart.

“Chronic heart disease was already a big challenge for the medical technology community, and now that we can expect multitudes of post-COVID-19 cardiovascular disease cases to occur in the years to come, we We really have our work to do, ”said Grosberg, a tissue engineering specialist who joined the research center in 2012.

She is one of seven fully dedicated CRIC faculty members, which also includes nearly 20 affiliated academic researchers. A very productive group, IARC’s core faculty has over 200 publications to their credit since the center was founded in 2009. And during that time, they have earned 39 doctorates. and 25 master’s students and have received over $ 70 million in research funding.

“Our philanthropic support and engagement with academic institutions such as the UCI is one of the ways Edwards Lifesciences invests to help innovation thrive here in Orange County. “

Mike Mussallem
Chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences

This is the kind of result that the leaders of Edwards Lifesciences hoped for with their initial investment of $ 5 million from the Edwards Lifesciences Foundation in 2007, which led to the establishment of the center. This year, Edwards renewed a donation of $ 2.2 million to help recruit and hire new IARC Director Naomi Chesler, UCI Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Professor in Biomedical Engineering.

Her long-standing commitment to serving those underrepresented in healthcare is a quality that has won over senior executives at the Edwards Lifesciences Foundation, according to Amanda Fowler, head of global corporate giving at Edwards.

“Dr. Chesler’s expertise, commitment and passion for addressing health disparities is a huge benefit to the UCI Cardiovascular Research and Innovation Center,” says Fowler. “We continue to continue. to be impressed and learn from his ideas of how medical technologies are innovated and designed, and then how their application may differ due to ethnicity or gender A deep understanding of disparities in matters health care is essential to the charitable work of our Every Heartbeat Matters initiative and to fulfilling our commitment to improving the lives of underserved critical care and structural heart patients around the world. ”

Over its 12-year history, IARC has firmly established itself in the Orange County medical technology ecosystem, where Irvine-based Edwards Lifesciences is a major force. UCI graduates with degrees in biomedical engineering and other fields have filled the talent pool of large companies as well as the many startups headquartered in the region. Edwards himself employs more than 500 UCI graduates, according to the UCI Alumni Association.

]Timothy Downing, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UCI, picture of genetically modified stem cells in his laboratory

Timothy Downing, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UCI, image of genetically modified stem cells in his laboratory to confirm their expression of a reporter gene. Downing’s research at UCI’s Edwards Lifesciences Foundation Cardiovascular Research and Innovation Center focuses on understanding how the regulatory mechanisms of genes contribute to stem cell differentiation over disease progression and cellular aging. Steve Zylius / UCI

“Our philanthropic support and engagement with academic institutions such as the UCI is one of the ways Edwards Lifesciences invests to help innovation thrive here in Orange County,” said Mike Mussallem, President -director general of Edwards, who is also a director of the UCI Foundation. “Collaboration between industry, universities and even healthcare providers in our region is essential to make OC the place where people want to stay, grow and thrive, which makes our community even better. strong. “

Fowler says one of the elements of the latest $ 2 million funding round – a new internship program – is designed to help train UCI students in some of the soft skills needed to be successful in the industry. of medical technology. It will include opportunities for them to engage in peer-to-peer mentoring with Edwards employees and even receive guidance from company executives.

“UCI students are incredibly bright and educated, and one thing that would help them thrive in a medtech environment like Edwards – where relationships, networking and connection are essential – are the softer skills to work in many. different functions within a company, ”she says. .

The center has a variety of offerings for students, including the Edwards Undergraduate Summer Research Program which has so far served 85 participants. The center also received a T32 Applied Cardiovascular Research and Entrepreneurship Training Grant from NIH in 2013; this program has enabled more than a dozen beneficiaries to accept positions in industry and vocational schools; 15 others are currently in training. The center also hosts the CardioStart summer program for high school students, which moved to a virtual format in 2020.

“With the generous support of the Edwards Foundation, we can explore new directions and take advantage of more opportunities, which are essential for research and innovation,” said Chesler. “Additionally, the Edwards Foundation’s commitment to underserved populations is aligned with the centre’s mission and vision to accelerate progress in heart health and health equity.

She adds: “In the future, I hope that we will be known as an inclusive center of excellence in research and innovation in cardiovascular sciences and engineering, that our members discover better, faster and more accessible ways. prevent, diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease, and that our interns are the next generation of diverse leaders in cardiovascular science, engineering and technology. “

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