WPI's Bioengineering Institute Receives Army Grant for Telemedicine Research

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Worcester, Mass. - March 10, 2003 - The Bioengineering Institute (BEI) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has landed its most significant research grant to date for a study in the field of telemedicine. The award, from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) at Fort Detrick, Md., provides more than $800,000 to fund the first year of what is expected to be a multi-year commitment to BEI. The Center for Untethered Medicine at BEI will oversee the study to investigate the development of a real-time troop monitoring system using new sensor and wireless communications technologies to remotely track health data and assess injuries.

The grant for the research study, entitled Real-Time Troop Physiological Status Monitoring System Using a Common Wireless Network, was secured by a multidisciplinary team of three WPI researchers, William R. Michalson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Yitzhak Mendelson, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and Peder C. Pedersen, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

This study will serve as the foundation in the development of a communication system that integrates new sensor technologies for real-time troop status monitoring, together with a wearable ultrasound imaging system, used by medics for improving remote injury assessment, into a common wireless network. This will enable the location, monitoring and assessment of the status of troops anywhere within the system coverage area at any time. Such a system would facilitate remote triage, improve casualty status assessment, and permit more efficient troop location and identification, along with other benefits.

The objective of this one-year program is to investigate and initiate the development of key components of the communication system that lie in three technology areas: low-level, wearable, vital sign sensors; human-machine interfaces and diagnostic algorithms to enhance field operation of the ultrasound imaging system; and low-maintenance, field-deployable computer, communications and positioning networks.

"The promise of this real-time, remote monitoring system is that it will save lives by giving decision makers the most accurate and up-to-date picture on the health of soldiers in the field," notes Timothy R. Gerrity, Ph.D., director of WPI's Bioengineering Institute. "The results of this research also promise exciting civilian applications that will empower patients to get better care for both acute and chronic ailments."

The tasks to be performed in this research program are developing several integrated optical sensor prototypes capable of measuring oxygen saturation and pulse rate simultaneously; enhancing man-machine interfaces for the Terason 2000 ultrasound scanner and improving signal processing algorithms for post-processing ultrasound images; and designing the communication portion of the computer, communications and positioning structure.

About the WPI Bioengineering Institute

The WPI Bioengineering Institute was created in 2002 to promote job creation and economic vitality by facilitating conversion of research discoveries into new products and new companies; to conduct research and development, tap the intellectual capital of the region and invoke the innovation process to create high-wage industries in the region.

The institute focuses on applied research, product development and product realization and will create a network of universities, hospitals, research organizations and development organizations linked electronically through design studios. It is based at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., and draws from WPI's expertise in biosensors, wireless communication, information technology and database analysis.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865, WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education. WPI was the first university to understand that students learn best when they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the solution of important problems. Today its students, working in teams at more than 20 project centers around the globe, put their knowledge and skills to work as they complete professional-level work that can have an immediate positive impact on society.

WPI's innovative, globally focused curriculum has been recognized by leaders in industry, government and academia as the model for the technological education of tomorrow. Students emerge from this program as true technological humanists, well rounded, with the confidence, the interpersonal skills and the commitment to innovation they need to make a real difference in their professional and personal lives.

The university awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, its first-rate research laboratories support master's and Ph.D. programs in more than 30 disciplines in engineering, science and the management of technology. Located in the heart of the region's biotechnology and high-technology sectors, WPI has built research programs - including the largest industry/university alliance in North America - that have won it worldwide recognition.