Engineering and global health
Some of Imperial's current research in the areas of engineering and global health are outlined below.
Institute of Biomedical Engineering
The Institute of Biomedical Engineering coordinates large-scale, multi-disciplinary research initiatives at Imperial College, applying pioneering advances in medical technology to enable people to lead independent and productive lives despite illness, ageing and disability. The IBME draws together scientists, medics and engineers from across the college in partnership with Med-Tech companies to create revolutionary progress in diagnosis and treatment of disease. It has a strong track record in translating its leading, multidisciplinary biomedical research into healthcare advances, through collaboration, licensing and spin-out companies.
The IBME runs Networks to seed new collaboration and interaction between technologists and biomedical scientists in particular disease areas, covering the full spectrum of disease burden, and it runs Research Centres providing central infrastructure and management support to bring together researchers in coordinated and focused programs to achieve healthcare impact in particular areas of unmet need. Current Research Centres include the Medical Engineering Solutions in Osteoarthritis Centre of Excellence, the Centre for Blast Injury Studies, the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology and the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation.
Within the Institute of Biomedical Engineering are:
1. Medical Engineering Solutions in Osteoarthritis Centre of Excellence
The Medical Engineering Solutions in Osteoarthritis Centre of Excellence funded by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC is one of four Centres of Excellence in Medical Engineering established in the UK in 2009 to transform the future of healthcare.
The Centre’s vision is to use emerging technologies to change the paradigm by which osteoarthritis is managed, thereby increasing the quality of life of individuals with osteoarthritis while reducing the societal burden of the disease. The Centre brings together engineers, surgeons, rehabilitation therapists, chemists, imaging scientists, computer scientists, materials scientists and cell biologists to make advances in three theme areas: early detection and monitoring of osteoarthritis; intervention; and rehabilitation and prevention. The Centre is led by a team of leading orthopaedic researchers, Professor Anthony Bull, Professor Andrew Amis and Professor Justin Cobb.
2. Centre for Blast Injury studies (CBIS)
The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies is a collaboration between military and civilian clinicians, scientists and engineers. With core funding from the Royal British Legion, CBIS is an Imperial College/Royal British Legion/Ministry of Defence partnership.
The aim of the Centre is to address specific clinical areas aimed at understanding blast injury mechanisms and investigating treatment and mitigation strategies. It aims to improve treatment and recovery for those injured serving their country, as well as to reduce the number and extent of blast injuries in the first place. Enhancing the quality of life for the injured, potentially reducing their long-term disability and dependency, while protecting Service men and women better in the future, is of major importance.
3. Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology
The Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology hosts a team of approximately 50-60 staff (mainly postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students). The Centre was formed from Bionics Research Group (Institute of Biomedical Engineering) in December 2009, made possible by a charitable donation from Professor Winston Wong, Taiwanese business leader and a physics alumnus of Imperial.
Inspired by life-style aspirations and biological systems, the Centre is inventing, developing and demonstrating devices to meet global challenges in healthcare and well-being, by mimicking living systems effectively and efficiently to create innovative and advanced technologies.
4. Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation
The Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (CSynBI) was established in partnership with the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE) through an EPSRC Science and Innovation award that aims to build new activity in areas of national strategic importance.
The Centre is led by Professor Richard I Kitney, OBE (Department of Bioengineering) and Professor Paul Freemont (Department of Life Sciences). The Centre is based in the Faculty of Engineering and works closely with the Department of Life Sciences to develop a vibrant and world-leading research activity in the emerging field of synthetic biology. A major strategic aim of the Centre is to establish a robust engineering framework for the design and optimisation of new synthetic biology parts, devices and systems and to integrate this research with emerging ethical, legal and societal issues.
Biomedical Material Sciences
Professor Molly Stevens
Biomedical materials research in the Institute ranges from the design and development of new materials for regenerative medicine to medical implants, drug delivery and diagnostics.
The vibrant field of tissue engineering for example combines aspects of materials science, cell biology, medicine and engineering. The aims are the functional regeneration of diseased or damaged tissue to greatly improve patient quality of life and longevity. Recent research in the group has focussed on tissue engineering, including the study of bone and cartilage regeneration and cardiovascular tissue calcification (hardening). Other projects in the group are more infectious disease related, including the development of an inexpensive HIV detection technique for naked eye based detection.
Environmental and Water Resource Engineering
Professor Nigel Graham and Dr Michael Templeton
The Environmental and Water Resources Section has a large and diverse portfolio of research and an extensive publication record.
It plays a leading role in national and international research activities, and provides advice and guidance to UK and overseas governments and international agencies.
Professor Graham’s international research activities include the development and evaluation of appropriate technologies for drinking water supplies. Recent projects have been concerned with novel materials for small community water systems, such as natural fabrics in slow sand filters, and pumice, with and without sand, in household-scale biofilters.
Dr Templeton’s international research activities include investigating the impact of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions on neglected tropical diseases such as schistosomiasis and developi ng more sustainable on-site sanitation technologies for low-income households.
The e.quinox project run by Imperial students and already operating in four Rwandan villages, focuses on making power accessible to rural communities in the developing world. They work through a system where renewable energy, such as solar power, is used to charge portable batteries in a central kiosk. These batteries can then be hired out to local householders in areas without mains electricity to provide power for a range of uses such as lighting, radios and keeping medicines refrigerated. Fees from hiring the batteries are channeled back into maintaining the kiosk and provide a salary to local people employed on the project. e.quinox actively works on creating new models to provide power to rural communities.
Energy Futures Lab
Professor Nigel Brandon
Providing a secure and sustainable energy supply for the future is one of today's key issues. The Energy Futures Lab is addressing this issue by supporting research teams at Imperial and beyond to work together.
Society is increasingly aware of the need for energy sources that are secure, plentiful and have reduced environmental impact. However, a solution to the energy problem will not only involve the development of our existing technologies, new solutions and collaborations across the traditional research disciplines will also need to be developed. The technology research will need to be supported by economics and policy advice for a whole new energy system for the future to succeed.
The Energy Futures Lab builds on the high-quality research across Imperial in areas including energy efficiency, nuclear power, renewable energy, transport, electrical networks, economics and policy development.
By providing a focus for energy research at the College and developing research programmes, the Energy Futures Lab is developing the sustainable future energy supply for society.
Advanced analytical and measurement technologies
Professor Tony Cass pioneered the use of synthetic electron transfer mediators for enzyme biosensors, with this work leading to the development of the first electronic blood glucose measuring system for diabetics. Current projects include developing point of care diagnostic devices and minimally invasive implantable sensors for conditions such as diabetes, induced cholestasis of pregnancy and infertility, as well as for continuous therapeutic drug monitoring and infectious disease detection.