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The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR) announced finalists for this year’s Creativity Hubs seed-funding competition. These interdisciplinary teams — representing the UNC College of Arts and Sciences, School of Data Science and Society, School of Medicine, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and NC State University — highlight the effectiveness of uniting diverse problem-solvers to tackle big challenges. Creativity Hub winning projects are expected to lead to large-scale extramural funding and/or commercial opportunities.

To date, the Creativity Hubs program has yielded meaningful scientific progress and contributed to extramural funding support to UNC-Chapel Hill exceeding $204 million and counting. The finalists for this round will prepare full proposals and present their project ideas in the spring semester. The winning team(s) will then be eligible for up to $500,000 in continued funding from the OVCR to execute their proposals over the next two years.

Creativity Hubs awardees receive proposal development assistance from the Office of Research Development to pursue large-scale, follow-on awards that build from the program’s funding.

This article was originally published by UNC Research and has been modified for relevance to the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. To learn more about these research projects and explore other Creativity Hubs Finalists, click this link.

This year, of the five Creativity Hubs Finalists Selected, two teams consist of multiple faculty members from the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME). The finalists advancing to the next round of Creativity Hubs funding from the Joint BME Department include:


Precision-Guided Closed Loop Adaptive Ultrasound Neuromodulation


The Precision-Guided Closed Loop Adaptive Ultrasound Neuromodulation team is co-led by BME faculty Paul Dayton and Gianmarco Pinton and includes BME faculty Oleg Favorov.

Understanding and treating the brain, a complex and dynamic structure, presents a formidable challenge in addressing disorders like depression, neurodegenerative diseases and traumatic brain injuries. Existing technologies for assessing brain anatomy and function are constrained by limitations in time, quality, cost and accessibility.

Recent technological advancements, including high-resolution brain ultrasound imaging and neuromodulation, offer promising new approaches to previously unthinkable possibilities. Integration of real-time feedback from the brain through a closed-loop solution could detect and actively correct brain malfunction.

A wearable ultrasound device combined with advanced machine learning could enable precise and adaptive neuromodulation without invasive procedures or hospitalization. This breakthrough has the potential to revolutionize treatment capabilities, brain-machine interfaces and neuroscience understanding, marking a significant advancement in clinical medicine.


Autonomous Living Therapies for Extended Results


The ALTER – Autonomous Living Therapies for Extended Results team includes BME faculty Michael Daniele and Rahima Benhabbour.

CDC reports show that six in 10 adults have chronic diseases, necessitating rigorous drug therapies. However, global medication adherence, including frequent dosing, remains a significant challenge. In the U.S., poor adherence results in 125,000 annual deaths and incurs over $300 billion in avoidable healthcare costs.

This research aims to develop an innovative, patient-specific drug delivery implant that overcomes adherence challenges. Unlike existing implants needing frequent reloading, this technology utilizes a cell pharmacy, where living cells produce drugs on demand. Engineered living cells in material manufacturing environments create adaptive therapies, empowering patients and physicians with treatment control for chronic diseases.

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