A Texas A&M University System-led consortium of industry, government partners and universities has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) on Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP), with the goal of addressing the human and economic burden of diabetes and heart disease in underserved communities.
Institutional partners in PATHS-UP include Florida International University, Rice University and the University of California at Los Angeles, along with several companies and other federal agencies.
The NSF ERC is an interdisciplinary initiative that connects academia, industry and government partners to integrate engineering research and education with technological innovation to transform national prosperity, health and security.
The program will focus on two transformative, engineered systems known as lab-in-your-palm and lab-on-a-wrist. Lab-in-your-palm allows for inexpensive remote diagnostic capabilities, while lab-on-a-wrist allows for near continual monitoring in order to address diabetes and heart disease monitoring.
The ERC is initially funded by a five-year base award of $19.75 million (which can be renewed for another $15.56 million and a total potential term of 10 years, for a potential total of over $35 million).
PATHS-UP will be led by Director Dr. Gerard Coté, a Texas A&M professor of biomedical engineering, and will be housed in the Health Technologies Building, a newly renovated, state-of-the-art building located in Texas A&M’s Research Park.
“On average, every 30 seconds one person in the United States will be diagnosed with diabetes and another will suffer a coronary event like a heart attack,” Coté said, adding that the research team will focus on the health of the underserved populations “by engaging them toward developing innovative, user-friendly, and cost-effective technologies and systems that can be used at the point-of-care in these communities.”
“PATHS-UP has two overarching goals. The first is to engineer technologies that can overcome the barriers usually faced by point-of-care devices. The technologies developed need to be deployable, highly accurate, easy-to-use and affordable. The second goal is to recruit and educate a diverse group of scientists and engineers who will lead the future in developing enabling technologies to improve health in underserved communities,” according to a press release.
NSF Program Director for PATHS-UP Deborah Jackson emphasized the important role the center could play in bringing down costs.
“The PATHS-UP ERC comprises a team of extraordinarily dedicated researchers who aim to develop cost-effective health care for underserved populations,” Jackson said. “If PATHS-UP’s chronic disease interventions are successful, they will have tackled a significant source of the skyrocketing national health care costs.”
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