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A new, comprehensive roadmap for the future of biomedical engineering

February 26, 2024
University of Pittsburgh
Experts published a detailed position paper on the field of biomedical engineering which lays the foundation for a concerted worldwide effort to achieve technological and medical breakthroughs.

The field of biomedical engineering anticipates an amazing future for the field, its researchers, and students.

IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, and the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (IEEE EMBS), recently published a detailed position paper on the field of biomedical engineering titled, "Grand Challenges at the Interface of Engineering and Medicine." The paper, published in the IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology (IEEE OJEMB), was written by a consortium of 50 renowned researchers from 34 prestigious universities around the world, and lays the foundation for a concerted worldwide effort to achieve technological and medical breakthroughs.

Representing the University of Pittsburgh in the position paper is Sanjeev G. Shroff, Interim U.S. Steel Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering; Distinguished Professor of and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering; and Professor of Medicine.

"What we've accomplished here will serve as a roadmap for groundbreaking research to transform the landscape of medicine in the coming decade," said Dr. Michael Miller, senior author of the paper and professor and director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. "The outcomes of the task force, featuring significant research and training opportunities, are poised to resonate in engineering and medicine for decades to come."

"Since the founding of our Department of Bioengineering 25 years ago, we have witnessed transformative advances and new technologies developed through partnerships between Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Brain Institute, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)," Dr. Shroff said. "The field of biomedical engineering is at a critical juncture in its evolution, with a need to reflect on the past and identify singular challenges that will continue to improve the human condition, These new Grand Challenges, developed through a global debate, will help guide our academic programs and research as well as prepare the next generation of bioengineers."

The position paper was the result of two years of discussion culminating in a two-day workshop organized by IEEE EMBS and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego. Through the course of the workshop, the researchers identified five primary medical challenges that have yet to be addressed, but by solving them with advanced biomedical engineering approaches, can greatly improve human health. By focusing on these five areas, the consortium has laid out a roadmap for future research and funding.

The Five Grand Challenges Facing Biomedical Engineering

  1. Bridging precision engineering and precision medicine for personalized physiology avatars

    In an increasingly digital age, we have technologies that gather immense amounts of data on patients, which clinicians can add to or pull from. Making use of this data to develop accurate models of physiology, called "avatars" -- which take into account multimodal measurements and comorbidities, concomitant medications, potential risks and costs -- can bridge individual patient data to hyper-personalized care, diagnosis, risk prediction, and treatment. Advanced technologies, such as wearable sensors and digital twins, can provide the basis of a solution to this challenge.

  2. The pursuit of on-demand tissue and organ engineering for human health

    Tissue engineering is entering a pivotal period in which developing tissues and organs on demand, either as permanent or temporary implants, is becoming a reality. To shepherd the growth of this modality, key advancements in stem cell engineering and manufacturing -- along with ancillary technologies such as gene editing -- are required. Other forms of stem cell tools, such as organ-on-a-chip technology, can soon be built using a patient's own cells and can make personalized predictions and serve as "avatars."

  3. Revolutionizing neuroscience using artificial intelligence (AI) to engineer advanced brain-interface systems

    Using AI, we can analyze the various states of the brain through everyday situations and real-world functioning to noninvasively pinpoint pathological brain function. Creating technology that does this is a monumental task, but one that is increasingly possible. Brain prosthetics, which supplement, replace or augment functions, can relieve the disease burden caused neurological conditions. Additionally, AI modeling of brain anatomy, physiology, and behavior, along with the synthesis of neural organoids, can unravel the complexities of the brain and bring us closer to understanding and treating these diseases.

  4. Engineering the immune system for health and wellness

    With a heightened understanding of the fundamental science governing the immune system, we can strategically make use of the immune system to redesign human cells as therapeutic and medically invaluable technologies. The application of immunotherapy in cancer treatment provides evidence of the integration of engineering principles with innovations in vaccines, genome, epigenome and protein engineering, along with advancements in nanomedicine technology, functional genomics and synthetic transcriptional control.

  5. Designing and engineering genomes for organism repurposing and genomic perturbations

    Despite the rapid advances in genomics in the past few decades, there are obstacles remaining in our ability to engineer genomic DNA. Understanding the design principles of the human genome and its activity can help us create solutions to many different diseases that involve engineering new functionality into human cells, effectively leveraging the epigenome and transcriptome, and building new cell-based therapeutics. Beyond that, there are still major hurdles in gene delivery methods for in vivo gene engineering, in which we see biomedical engineering being a component to the solution to this problem.

"This paper represents a major milestone in the advancement of biomedical engineering, which could only have been achieved through close collaboration rather than the work of many siloed individuals," said consortium member Dr. Metin Akay, founding chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Houston and Ambassador of IEEE EMBS. "We have a shared commitment to advancing patient-centric technologies, and healthcare efficacy and accessibility -- which extends beyond academic institutions -- and elevating healthcare quality, reducing costs and improving lives worldwide."

"These grand challenges offer unique opportunities that can transform the practice of engineering and medicine," remarked Dr. Shankar Subramaniam, lead author of the taskforce, distinguished professor, Shu Chien-Gene Lay Department of Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego and past President of IEEE EMBS. "Innovations in the form of multi-scale sensors and devices, creation of humanoid avatars and the development of exceptionally realistic predictive models driven by AI can radically change our lifestyles and response to pathologies. Institutions can revolutionize education in biomedical and engineering, training the greatest minds to engage in the most important problem of all times -- human health."

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Pittsburgh. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Shankar Subramaniam, Metin Akay, Mark A. Anastasio, Vasudev Bailey, David Boas, Paolo Bonato, Ashutosh Chilkoti, Jennifer R. Cochran, Vicki Colvin, Tejal A. Desai, James S. Duncan, Frederick H. Epstein, Stephanie Fraley, Cecilia Giachelli, K. Jane Grande-Allen, Jordan Green, X. Edward Guo, Isaac B. Hilton, Jay D. Humphrey, Chris R Johnson, George Karniadakis, Michael R. King, Robert F. Kirsch, Sanjay Kumar, Cato T. Laurencin, Song Li, Richard L. Lieber, Nigel Lovell, Prashant Mali, Susan S. Margulies, David F. Meaney, Brenda Ogle, Bernhard Palsson, Nicholas A. Peppas, Eric J. Perreault, Rick Rabbitt, Lori A. Setton, Lonnie D. Shea, Sanjeev G. Shroff, Kirk Shung, Andreas S. Tolias, Marjolein C.H. van der Meulen, Shyni Varghese, Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, John A. White, Raimond Winslow, Jianyi Zhang, Kun Zhang, Charles Zukoski, Michael I. Miller. Grand Challenges at the Interface of Engineering and Medicine. IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, 2024; 5: 1 DOI: 10.1109/OJEMB.2024.3351717

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University of Pittsburgh. "A new, comprehensive roadmap for the future of biomedical engineering." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2024. <>.
University of Pittsburgh. (2024, February 26). A new, comprehensive roadmap for the future of biomedical engineering. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2024 from
University of Pittsburgh. "A new, comprehensive roadmap for the future of biomedical engineering." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 19, 2024).

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