Highmark and Carnegie Mellon, announce research funding

highmarkCarnegie Mellon University (CMU), Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network announced a second round of funded CMU projects poised to ‘disrupt’ health care by identifying key unmet clinical needs and addressing them with advanced medical technologies. $1.7 million was awarded to projects ranging from managing chronic wound healing to reducing toxic side effects of anticancer drugs.

“Carnegie Mellon is at the center of the confluence of data analytics, machine learning, science and engineering. We are leveraging that expertise towards health care applications,” said Alan Russell, Ph.D., director of Carnegie Mellon’s Disruptive Health Technology Institute (DHTI) and Chief Innovation Officer for Allegheny Health Network.

“The DHTI payer-provider-innovator infrastructure that we have created is essential in pushing innovative technology off the bench for deployable solutions,” said Russell. “Involving the payer community and their expertise, at the beginning, in the innovation process is at the heart of helping drive innovation more quickly toward patient care.”

Insurance companies are key stakeholders in the health care industry, but they have not generally participated in proactive research and innovation in order to simultaneously increase the affordability, simplicity, and accessibility of healthcare.

“Highmark Health is uniquely positioned to develop and provide access to technologies and programs that promote more effective and efficient solutions to our members’ healthcare needs,” said David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark Health. “The goal when forming DHTI was to establish an industry-leading collaborative effort that allows the payer, innovators, and clinicians to work together to create breakthrough health care solutions that reinforce our mission to deliver health care at the right time, at the right place and at the right cost.”

    Of 16 funded DHTI projects this year, seven major initiatives will receive at least $100K, including:

  • A method of increasing efficacy and reducing side effects of nanotechnology-based anti-cancer drugs. Principal Investigator (PI): Chien Ho, Department of Biological Sciences.
  • A microscopic RFID device that reduces the amount of counterfeit drugs from entering the legitimate supply chain. PI: Larry Richard (Rick) Carley, Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • Improved detection techniques of early stage melanoma lesions. PI: Mahadev Satyanarayanan, Computer Science.
  • Automated methods to monitor and coach asthma patients using metered dose inhalers, empowering the patient with more control over their disease. PI: Alexander Hauptmann, School of Computer Science.
  • A technique for detecting the formation of biofilms on medical implants, which can lead to infection. PI: Jeffrey Weldon, Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • A robotic table to aid in orthopedic surgeries. PI: Eric Meyhofer, National Robotics Engineering Center.
  • A cost-effective, sensitive, and easy-to-use palpation tool to improve self-breast cancer screenings. PI: James F. Antaki, Biomedical Engineering.

In November 2013, the DHTI funded its first round of projects ranging from video analytic tools for colonoscopies to a vest-like heart monitor that detects and diagnoses heart problems.

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