skip to main content

Strategic Research Initiatives

Center for Translational Bioengineering in Large Animal Models

Andrew Smith: Bioengineering

This Strategic Research Initiatives grant addresses the need to increase the efficiency of clinical translation of new biomedical technologies. Testing, approval, and adoption of new devices and pharmacotherapies is often a 7-12 year process, while the probability of approval is less than 10% for a new drug entering Phase I clinical trials. These factors contribute to a financial burden that translates to high healthcare costs. For technologies related to cancer, it is believed that a major contributing factor to this inefficiency is the over-reliance on rodent cancer models during preclinical development and translation. While serving essential roles in early stage testing and hypothesis-driven research, key differences between rodents and humans significantly impede translation of technologies for cancer. For example, human beings are 3,000 times larger than mice, while mice bear tumors that are proportionally 1,000-times larger. This scaling problem alone makes translational validation impractical for (1) pharmacotherapies and contrast agents, due to scale-dependent pharmacokinetics, (2) diagnostic imaging due to scale-dependence of procedures and images, and (3) in vitro diagnostic screens, as miniscule sample quantities are available for companion diagnosis and analysis.

The Center for Translational Bioengineering in Large Animal Models aims to establish an interdisciplinary team of investigators to address the need for translational animal models in bioengineering research. As a worlswide leader in technological fields of imaging, sensing, and therapeutics as well as animal sciences and veterinary medicine, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus is uniquely poised to lead the testing of medically driven technologies in large animals. This grant will seed this effort, specifically cultivating activities focused on cancer through matching funds from the Cancer Center at Illinois. This work will facilitate the testing of in vivo imaging and in vitro diagnostic modalities as well as targeted nanomedicines in the oncopig cancer model that was recently developed at Illinois by Professor Larry Schook. Our objective is to develop experimental testing pipelines as well as integrated interdisciplinary expertise toward a center that bridges gaps between bioengineering research and clinical testing.