Medical Devices Development

2017-03-15

Commercialization success at CAMS and PUMC extends beyond drug development. The Institute of Biomedical Engineering in Tianjin has developed medical devices since the 1960s. The institute started small; its predecessor was the machine repair shop of PUMC, set up to fix medical devices when financial resources were limited. Today, there are more than 10 research labs within IBE, working on the development of a broad range of medical devices. Apart from medical devices, IBE researchers also develop new biomaterials.


In 2010, IBE began building an R&D platform that encourages technology transfer and commercialization. In the past two years, its research projects have resulted in seven successful tech transfers. The new platform enables IBE engineers to work together with clinical doctors from PUMC and CAMS to identify relevant problems in clinical medicine and then set about finding engineering solutions. This way, research resources are geared toward the most meaningful clinical applications.


Examples of innovative medical devices developed and commercialized at IBE include several types of specialized ultrasound devices for ophthalmology and dermatology uses, a pulse-based diagnostic device for traditional Chinese medicine, and photo activated cancer drugs. IBE plans to step into the era of big data and cloud-based medical informatics. IBE researchers are already on the front lines of device development, working on wearable devices connected to the cloud and participating in the data collection for the PEACE Million Persons Project, which aims to collect baseline epidemiology data on the health of a large part of the Chinese population.


Also based in Tianjin is the CAMS Institute of Radiation Medicine (IRM). IRM was originally set up in 1959 to support the national security needs in nuclear warfare readiness. 


These days, IRM is more involved in developing protective gear for civil applications than preparing for a nuclear war. The IRM’s most significant commercialization success is a form of lightweight radiation-protective clothing. It weighs less than 3 pounds compared with the traditional, heavy lead-based garments, yet offers very efficient protection against external exposure to gamma and X-rays. The new gear makes for better working conditions in many professions, including nuclear power plant workers and miners. The same materials have been used to create protective underwear for commercial pilots at risk of cosmic radiation exposure at high altitudes.


Innovation at IRM goes beyond protective clothing. Besides researching the medical effects of radiation on the human body, IRM scientists are also working on medically relevant solutions using their accumulated expertise about radiation medicine and radiobiology. IRM presented a new antioxidant drink at a trade show in the spring of 2016 that will change the practice of radiation therapy. This is an innovative product and proven very effective in speeding recovery after radiation-induced injury. The specially formulated drink is given to patients before and after radiation therapy and loads the body with scavenger molecules that neutralize free radicals generated during the therapy. As a result, collateral damage to cells is limited and the patient recovers more quickly.