We build millimeter-scale robotic devices with applications in medicine, including drug delivery systems, biosensors, and preclinical drug screening tools. The ingestible, implantable, and wearable technologies we create hold profound implications in treating chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart failure. We build devices with clinical translation in mind, and many of our technologies are now in human trials. From a painless pill capable of replacing burdensome insulin and vaccine injections to a wearable sensor capable of measuring the real-time effects of cancer therapies, our lab is constantly pursuing the goal of improving the quality of life for patients worldwide.
Ingestible Robotic Capsules
Patients usually prefer to swallow their medications rather than inject them or wear them as a patch; however, the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tract prevents this delivery route for many drugs, including insulin and mRNA. Our group is interested in developing new technologies that enable the oral delivery of these macromolecule drugs and provide enhanced organ and cell level targeting to prevent off-target side effects. To achieve this goal, we develop new drug formulations and miniaturized robotic devices that combine to enable automated, ingestible healthcare systems. A recent project is highlighted in the video below. The end goal is to create pills that sense when a drug needs to be delivered and automatically provides the appropriate dose.
Body-Network Electronic Therapeutics
Ingestible, implantable, and wearable electronic devices enable noninvasive evaluation and diagnosis of pathologies, but generally stop short of a therapeutic intervention. Our group aims to develop networks of devices that provide a complete therapeutic package, including diagnostic sensing, therapeutic intervention, and closed-loop feedback on outcome progress. We develop three dimensional conformal electronic systems that physically interact with the tissue, and we also develop ingestible electronic capsules that localize to the tissue wall to provide therapy. Previous projects include orally dosed electrical stimulation systems for the treatment of gastroparesis and wearable sensors that track tumor volume regression.
Quantifying Quality of Life
Academic labs often produce medical device prototypes with novel engineering approaches and make claims of widespread clinical applications; however, in order for a device to succeed in the clinic, it must provide quantifiable clinical outcomes in a cost-effective manner. The field of health decision analysis utilizes patient surveys, economic models, clinical trials outcomes, and technical data to measure the relative costs required to achieve certain health outcomes in patients suffering from a variety of diseases. Using decision tree models, our lab aims to understand the effect of engineering design choices on the potential for clinical acceptance of novel medical devices. Example design choices include drug loading capacity, raw material costs, required assembly steps, among other key metrics. One previous project focused on quantifying the improvement in quality of life when switching from taking an injection to an orally dosed pill.