UCLA Bioengineering Alumni Advisory Board (AAB)
The UCLA Bioengineering Alumni Advisory Board’s mission is to promote the communication, growth, and shared activities of the UCLA Bioengineering alumni, faculty, and students.
The AAB members offer unique inputs to help the Department understand the needs of industry, academia, and the medical professions, insights into how well the department is meeting the bioengineering needs of the future, and knowledge of current trends in the industry, including suggestions for keeping the curriculum and degree programs current. They also provide input to academics, research, outreach, advocacy, and development.
The members represent a cross-section of the alumni of the Department, and of the major areas of the bioengineering field.
The AAB meets annually, and following its mission, is involved in several activities, including the annual Discover UCLA Engineering day, Bioengineering Research Day, ongoing student mentorship, career development advising, and the ABET Accreditation process every six years.
Alumni Success Stories
More than a decade after he co-founded medical diagnostics company Cytovale in 2013, UCLA bioengineering alumnus Henry Tse, Ph.D. ’12 is well on his way to deploy a tool his company designed for early detection of sepsis — the number one cause of death in hospitals. In January, Cytovale received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its rapid sepsis diagnostic tool IntelliSep, clearing the way for its use in hospitals around the country. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis in a typical year and one in three people dies in a hospital as a result of the medical condition. Sepsis occurs when an existing infection triggers a chain of immune response through the body that, if not defected or treated timely, can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, or death. IntelliSep is designed to help clinicians recognize sepsis in adult patients at an emergency department by providing test results from a standard blood draw in under 10 minutes. The diagnostics tool then categorizes findings into three bands — from low to high probability of sepsis. The results may equip heath care providers with a tool to optimize clinical outcomes and resource utilization, offering timely treatment to those who are more likely to develop sepsis.
To read more please go to: https://www.bioeng.ucla.edu/bruin-engineer-builds-startup-to-tackle-sepsis-one-cell-at-a-time/
After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, Phillip Cox ’17 started working at a then small Boston-based startup that develops biotechnologies using tiny pieces of genetic code known as messenger RNA, or mRNA. Five years later, that company, Moderna, became a global organization known for developing one of the primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. and around the world — a project in which Cox played a pivotal role. Cox helped scale up Moderna’s mRNA manufacturing process to meet the global vaccine demand as a member of its mRNA Process Development team, which has grown exponentially over the course of the pandemic to support Moderna’s efforts to expand its manufacturing capacity. As part of the team’s expansion, Cox moved to Switzerland for three months in late 2020 to support the technology transfer efforts at the company’s plant in Visp. “As a young engineer, I could never have imagined in a million years that I would be able to positively impact the lives of billions of people around the world,” Cox said. But, producing safe and effective vaccines at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about many challenges, the likes of which Cox and his team had never faced before. The team had to work amid a global supply chain crisis and unprecedentedly accelerated timelines. Cox and his colleagues rushed to hire and onboard new scientists and engineers to support the development and rollout efforts.
To read more please go to: https://www.bioeng.ucla.edu/from-lab-to-market-a-bioengineering-alums-journey-through-manufacturing-moderna-covid-vaccine/
Founded by bioengineers at the UCLA Department of Bioengineering, Phase Diagnostics, Inc. is a fast-growing biotech startup developing cutting-edge technologies to change the landscape in diagnostics and healthcare management. Leveraging their proprietary paper microfluidic concentration platform, the company aims to introduce a line of novel rapid point-of-care test kits for a range of clinical and non-clinical applications. They have been awarded upwards of $2.5 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have further closed their Seed Round of financing to launch their lead Oral Health product, which is expected to receive European CE mark later this year. Pipeline projects include an at-home rapid diagnostic kit for sexually transmitted diseases and a rapid saliva-based malaria test for resource-poor countries. The founders include Ricky Chiu, PhD, Garrett Mosley, PhD, Prof. Daniel Kamei and Prof. Benjamin Wu.
Forcyte Biotechnologies, Inc. is an up-and-coming startup company spun out of UCLA Bioengineering that was started in March 2017 by 3-time Bruin, Ivan Pushkarsky (B.S. 2012, PhD 2017, postdoc 2018) together with his graduate advisor Prof. Dino Di Carlo and their colleague Prof. Robert Damoiseaux.
Forcyte is automating the life sciences with specific focus on simplifying and miniaturizing measurements of cellular “strength” to inform drug-makers of how different chemical compounds functionally affect patient cells. In doing so, the technology can identify beneficial chemical compounds that could become medicines (but would otherwise be overlooked). It can also detect dangerous or ineffective compounds and remove them from drug pipelines sooner and more cheaply than before.
This exciting new technology was developed during Pushkarsky’s PhD work under Prof. Di Carlo between 2013 and 2017. Pushkarsky, who began as an undergrad volunteer with the Di Carlo Lab in 2011, says that he and Prof. Di Carlo knew as soon as they started on the project in Fall 2013 that it had commercial potential.
“From the start, Dino preached, and I believed, that this technology we wanted to work on could have a big impact outside of university research. With this in mind, we made our strategic decisions with a long-game view of advancing healthcare in the commercial realm,” said Pushkarsky.
“That’s the cool thing about this department – pretty much every Professor here has spun out a company (or 5) with students based on their research. That’s the responsibility of engineers working on healthcare problems – to solve them and get the solutions out to the rest of the world.”
Vitality Biopharma, Inc. is a drug development company led by Robert Brooke, who obtained his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA in 2005. After graduating, Mr. Brooke worked in healthcare finance with an investment firm in Westwood before founding a cancer drug development company that is now known as Iovance Biotherapeutics. In 2012, he founded Vitality Biopharma, which was originally focused upon development of an enzymatic biosynthesis process to make better tasting versions of stevia, a zero-calorie sweetener. However, in 2015, the company discovered that its biosynthesis process had far more applications than previously realized. It was found that an enzyme from the Stevia plant was able to glycosylate or “sugar-coat” many other compounds, including cannabinoids such as THC. This technology enabled the production of proprietary oral THC drug formulations that deliver the compound in a targeted manner to the intestinal tract, providing local therapeutic effects without any psychoactivity or intoxication. Vitality is entering clinical trials in 2018 and plans to initially study treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and narcotic bowel syndrome, a severe form of opiate-induced abdominal pain. With collaborators at UCLA and also in Canada, the company is also now planning observational studies that monitor the use of cannabinoids as a safe alternative to opioid painkillers.
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