Beckman Laser Institute receives Air Force funding for wounded warriors project

Photo by Laurel Hungerford

Renewed grant of $6.8 million to aid in development of optics-based trauma treatments

Irvine, Calif., June 11, 2020 — The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has granted $6.8 million in renewed funding to the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine for an ongoing project to develop advanced medical technologies to aid warriors on the battlefield.

“This program is one of the longest continually funded initiatives in UCI history, having received its first grant in 1986 and totaling almost $30 million during its lifetime,” said Michael Berns, UCI’s Arnold and Mabel Beckman chair in laser biomedicine and distinguished professor of surgery, biomedical engineering, and developmental & cell biology. “The research ultimately can benefit all branches of the military, and there are significant portions that already have applications in civilian medicine.”

Titled “Advanced Optical Technologies for Defense Trauma and Critical Care,” the program integrates eight projects to develop potentially life-saving innovations for critical care evaluation and patient treatment. Another will specifically address traumatic brain injury.

Continuing until March 2023, the projects will fill device capability gaps in the Joint Forces Health Protection initiative under the U.S. Department of Defense.

The subprojects include:

  • Development of a non-invasive wearable sensor to provide continuous physiologic information;
  • Creation of wearable hemodynamic and metabolic sensors for critical-care assessment and the monitoring of lactate and other hemodynamic markers;
  • Modification of flow-enhanced pulse oximetry for improved patient monitoring in field conditions and during transport;
  • Development of a durable, compact blood-coagulation analyzer for real-time assessment;
  • Enhancement of a commercially available surgical camera invented by this program to quantitatively and non-invasively assess burns and wounds;
  • Invention of a functional optical coherence tomography tool to add airway compliance and ciliary function capabilities to the characterization of inhalation airway injury;
  • Validation of a hand-held, point-of-care wound infection and biofilm imaging device;
  • Innovation of an in-vitro assay system for structural and functional mechanisms of traumatic brain and spinal cord injury.

The Beckman Laser Institute will collaborate with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and the Air Force Research Laboratory on an ongoing basis to complete these goals. In addition, the Air Force funding will support laboratory facilities and an administrative core to service the project and provide for the filing of intellectual property rights for patent protection and commercialization plans.

The program has already led to the launch of start-up companies which market technologies for non- or minimally invasive imaging for different diseases and human conditions. These include Modulim (formerly Modulated Imaging), OCT Medical Imaging Inc. and Laser Associated Sciences, all of which are based in Irvine.

“UCI is ideally suited for this program with the unique translational design of the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, including its photonic incubator, along with resources and support of the UCI Beall Applied Innovation for commercialization of devices,” Berns said.

Read full UCI News press release.