Four New Fellows Are Helping to Heal the World

Work in biomedicine and medical applications earn them IEEE's highest distinction

4 February 2011

Every year, IEEE honors some of its most noteworthy members with the prestigious distinction of Fellow. This year, 321 senior members were elevated to Fellow status, including four whose work in biomedicine and medical applications are particularly noteworthy.

Dorin Panescu, chief technical officer and vice president of NewCardio, a company in San Jose, Calif., that is developing a three-dimensional approach to electrocardiography, was elevated to IEEE Fellow for his “contributions to medical devices for cardiac applications” in the application engineer category. He credits his career-long membership in the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society with influencing his success.

“EMBS has supported my career growth, from grad student to my current role,” he says. “Once I was employed in the medical device industry and in years thereafter, IEEE-EMBS also allowed me to give back by offering me opportunities to tell students and their teachers about what to expect in a biomedical engineering career and how to prepare for the field.”

With more than 250 patents to his name, and heavily published in the society’s journals with more than 100 technical articles to his name, Panescu’s work has had a tremendous impact on patients around the world. Devices based on his patents are in clinical use worldwide to treat abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure, and related conditions. These devices include implantable cardiac-resynchronization devices and wireless remote patient monitors, as well as procedures involving cardiac ablation, which vaporize dysfunctional heart tissue using radio frequencies. He also has contributed to the development of implantable pacemakers and defibrillators and a 3-D ECG platform testing the safety of cardiac drugs during their development.

Mark G. Allen has made significant strides in the field of microelectronics during the past 20 years. He was elevated to IEEE Fellow in the educator category for his “contributions to micro- and nanofabrication technologies for micromechanical systems.”

Allen has been with Georgia Tech since 1989. He is senior vice provost for research and innovation and acting director of the school’s Georgia Electronic Design Center. There he also runs the microSensors and microActuators research group, which focuses on the design, fabrication, testing, and packaging of micro-electro-mechanical systems. They’re being applied in such devices as high-temperature wireless pressure sensors in jet engines and needles for painless drug delivery.

Those microneedles led Allen and a colleague to found Redeon in 1999. The company, later acquired and absorbed by Biovalve, commercialized approaches to delivering insulin and other drugs transdermally. The microneedles cause patients no pain, because they do not pass through the dead cells of the outermost layer of the skin to the layers below that contain nerves, but penetrate deep enough to administer drugs effectively.

Allen also cofounded CardioMEMS, in Atlanta, in 2001 to commercialize wireless implantable microsensors to treat aneurysms and congestive heart failure. The company’s EndoSure wireless pressure measurement system, a hermetically sealed sensor the size of a paper clip, has been implanted into more than 6000 patients.

Neuroengineering pioneer Gert Cauwenberghs was elevated to Fellow in the research engineer category for his “contributions to integrated biomedical instrumentation.” A professor of bioengineering and biology at the University of California at San Diego, Cauwenberghs has made groundbreaking contributions to the design, implementation, and application of very-large-scale integrated silicon microchips for adaptive neural computation and sensory information processing. The chips are used in implantable neural interfaces, acoustic microarrays, and adaptive optics, as well as for biometric identification.

Much of Cauwenberghs’ research focuses on developing silicon microsystems inspired by the synaptic mechanisms of the human brain. The goals of his research, he says, are threefold: “to empower silicon integrated circuits with adaptive intelligence inspired by sensory information processing in nervous systems; to facilitate advances in computational neuroscience by large-scale emulation of neural models in parallel analog silicon circuits; and to interface silicon with neural cells for restoring lost function in sensory- and motor-impaired patients.”

Cauwenberghs also helped form the IEEE Biomedical Circuits and Systems Technical Committee. He helped launch the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, for which he serves as editor in chief, and he is currently senior editor of IEEE Sensors Journal.

Battling cancer is in Larry A. Nagahara’s genes. As program director for the Physical Sciences–Oncology Centers Program at the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, Md., he coordinates activities related to expanding the role of the physical sciences in cancer research. He was elevated to IEEE Fellow in the technology leader category for his “leadership in nanotechnology devices and measurement applications.”

Much of Nagahara’s work has been applied to nanoelectronics and nanosensors which, he says, could have a big potential impact in biomedical applications such as the early diagnosis of cancer, monitoring a patient’s entire system, and tracking patients’ responses to treatment.

Nagahara is managing his institute’s efforts in exploring innovative approaches to better understand and control cancer, using what he calls “new, perhaps unorthodox, ways.”

In his program, 12 teams of scientists from the physical sciences, engineering, life sciences, and oncology are working together to examine cancer through new eyes. “The convergence of these often disparate areas of science is critical to better understand the physical and chemical forces that shape and govern the emergence and behavior of cancer,” he says.

As with many of this year’s Fellows, Nagahara says his participation in IEEE activities helped shape his career and understanding of his technical field. “Through IEEE activities such as conferences, I was exposed to the numerous IEEE societies,” he says. “Nanotechnology is one area that crosses many of these societies and shows how a professional society can bring together people with different expertise and perspectives to accelerate understanding and commercial application.”

For the entire list of 2011 IEEE Fellows, visit the Fellows Web site, where you can nominate a colleague for the 2012 class. Nominations are due 1 March 2011.

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