Utah scientists gather for a peek at the future of medical technology

Published: Saturday, Sept. 10 2011 11:33 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine drugs that only target tumors, or implantable control chips that allow people to operate robotic prosthetics, or how about medications that can heal broken bones faster.

These are just some of the dozens of research projects presented at the seventh annual Utah Biomedical Engineering Conference, at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah. Scientists, students and company representatives from all over Utah gathered at the conference on Saturday to see the best and most promising research Utah has to offer.

"This is what health care will look like a decade from now," said Patrick Tresco, U. professor and chair of bioengineering. "This is the center of biomedical research in Utah."

Tresco said the conference is a chance for researchers to share their research, find partners for collaboration and to interact with biomedical company representatives.

There were more than 153 presentations and 20 speakers this year. Posters were set up giving brief overviews of research projects from the U., Brigham Young University, Utah State University and others.

One presentation showed a wireless recharging system using copper coils that can not only be used to wirelessly charge computer monitors and cell phones, but also electronic devices implanted in the human body.

Darwin Cheney, president and CEO of Thera-Target, said the company, founded by two U. medical doctors, aims to reduce the toxicity of anti-cancer drugs by attaching drug molecules to long polymer chains. By doing so, the drugs affect cancer tissue but leave surrounding healthy tissue intact, and are flushed from the body without harming the kidneys. Cheney said they are trying to get the drugs into clinical trials.

Many of the projects are supported by USTAR, a state-run science program that invests in world-class researchers and state-of-the-art research facilities. "USTAR has a big interest in this conference and invests in technology, and creating jobs in Utah," said USTAR marketing specialist Amanda Smith.

Zach Peeler, an MBA and biomedical engineering graduate student, said the conference gives students and faculty a chance to show off the quality of Utah's research institutions, but to also get a feel for career opportunities. "We're trying to expose students to industry and expose industry to some of our students," Peeler said.

Email: gfattah@desnews.com

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