2021 Faculty Mentorship Awards

By: UCI School of Medicine

Congratulations to our faculty member Brian Wong for winning Clinical Faculty Mentor of the Year!

Brian Wong, MD, PhD, professor of otolaryngology, for his many years of dedication to mentoring translational and clinical faculty.

Click here to view all 2021 Faculty Mentorship Awards.

eLysis Uses Saline and Electricity to Get that Perfect Look

By: Ethan Perez

Photo by: UCI Beall Applied Innovation

Body sculpting or contouring — or procedures in which excess body fat from specific areas is removed to achieve a patient’s desired appearance — have become increasingly popular cosmetic procedures sought by patients. Data gathered by Statista showed there were over 600,000 body sculpting procedures performed in the U.S. in 2018 alone. Procedures to remove fat from specific areas can involve nonsurgical freezing or heating, surgical removal or the injection of an acid into the desired area.

One UCI startup is prepared to shock the industry with a new minimally invasive approach to achieve precision body contouring results with little more than a saline solution and an electric current.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from UC Irvine’s (UCI) Henry Samueli School of Engineering, Joon You, Ph.D., became interested in starting companies. He co-founded the optical imaging company that would become Modulim — a UCI startup — and has co-founded several startups since.

One such project had You working with longtime collaborator Dr. Brian Wong, a facial plastic surgeon at the UCI Medical Center and faculty at the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering, developing a technology from Wong’s lab. Dr. Wong’s research centered around using electrochemistry to alter living tissues.

The use of electrochemistry to alter living tissue was discovered by accident by Wong and his post-doctoral fellow at the time, Sergio Diaz-Valdez. Through what can only be described as a happy accident caused by a mix-up when setting up the circuitry, the procedure did not produce heat through radiofrequency energy but still happened to elicit the same desired result.

“It was a mystery,” said You, “But the only explanation was electrochemistry, because of the low voltage and small current.”

The potential market for a device that reshapes cartilage through electrochemistry — or a chemical reaction created by electricity — was relatively small, so the team looked elsewhere across many potential applications in medicine.

Because the technology could be easily tuned to dissolve fat, the team believed it could be used for body contouring procedures as an alternative to the more costly and more invasive surgical procedures.

“Originally, we were not sure if we were ready to start another company, but decided to give it a try,” said You. “We were then able to get proof of concept funding from Beall Applied Innovation and that really helped us get to our first animal study, which can be very expensive and difficult to get funding for at that stage.”

With help from the Proof of Product (POP) Grant-funded animal study, eLysis demonstrated that the technology can achieve precision body contouring results by giving pigs the appearance of six-pack abs.

With that, eLysis Inc. was established and co-founded by You, chief technology officer and interim CEO; Wong; Michael Hill, Ph.D., a professor of Chemistry at Occidental College; and Dr. Steve Yoelin, an ophthalmologist and developer of Latisse, the pharmaceutical treatment for growing eyelashes.

Click here to read the full article on the UCI Beall Applied Innovation website.

Virgin Orbit Successfully Launches 7 Satellites In 3rd Mission

By: Lia De La Cruz

Photo by: The Verge

Liftoff! June 30, 2021

Virgin Orbit celebrated the success of its third-ever space mission on June 30, 2021. The successful launch carried seven satellites to their target orbits. The company’s air-launched rocket, LauncherOne, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California beneath the wing of its Boeing 747 carrier plane, also known as Cosmic Girl. Liftoff came at 9:50 a.m. EDT (13:50 UTC), and the rocket deployed high above the Pacific Ocean almost an hour later at 10:47 a.m. (14:47 UTC). Virgin Orbit announced via Twitter that all seven payloads had successfully reached their target orbits shortly afterwards.

LauncherOne is a 70-foot-long (21-m-long) two-stage rocket, capable of delivering up to 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of freight to orbit. One feature unique to LauncherOne is its air-launch strategy, a method performed by separating from Cosmic Girl at an altitude of roughly 35,000 feet (10,700 m) and thrusting into low-Earth orbit from that point. Virgin Orbit representatives claim that this method increases flexibility and responsiveness when compared to vertical launches, at least in the case of LauncherOne.

The company also employs this strategy with its space tourism plane, SpaceShipTwo.

The current target price for LauncherOne is below $10 million per flight and is expected to be joined by dozens of new launch vehicles manufactured by Virgin Orbit in the coming years. Numerous large global networks are in development by companies like SpaceXSITAEL, and the formerly-bankrupt OneWeb, looking to connect us across vast distances, stimulate the global economy, and expand the limits of human knowledge: an industry Virgin Orbit is hoping to assist in.

Another customer is a subsidiary of Virgin Orbit called VOX Space, created in the early 2020s and intended to use the LauncherOne launch vehicle. The company plans to supply launch services for the U.S. military, sometimes referred to as the “national security launch market.” In April 2020, VOX Space was awarded a $35 million contract for three launches of 44 cubesats.

A different project Virgin Orbit took interest in was in response to the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, when the company announced it would help build comparatively low-grade mechanical ventilators (breathing machines) to address the critical global shortage of mechanical ventilators. To develop and produce them, Virgin Orbit, the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Texas at Austin formed the Bridge Ventilator Consortium.

Click here to read the full article on the Earthsky website.

Incubating innovation: UCI Beall Applied Innovation is helping make Irvine a growing startup hub

By: Christine Byrd

Photo by: UCI News

An award-winning innovator who started an agricultural technology company. A UCI alumnus who founded a medical device company. A UCI professor who’s producing rapid tests for COVID-19 and other diseases. Their backgrounds are as different as their companies, but they all launched their ventures at UCI Beall Applied Innovation.

The city of Irvine recently landed on WalletHub’s list of the best big cities in which to start a business and was ranked first for access to related resources. That’s no accident. Irvine’s success is part of a concerted effort that kicked into high gear in 2014 when Applied Innovation opened its doors, bringing together a treasure trove of tools for entrepreneurs.

Martha Montoya, who was named an Orange County Business Journal Innovator of the Year in 2020, launched her startup at Applied Innovation because of its connections with talented, experienced industry mentors.

“It’s like Christmastime,” she says. “Applied Innovation’s No. 1 asset is the people in the ecosystem. I can just grab someone who sold a company for $1.5 billion and ask for advice.”

In 2017, Montoya was driving around University Research Park looking for UCI’s startup incubator to help take her business plan from paper into the real world. After a couple of wrong stops, she located Applied Innovation’s beach-themed space, dubbed the Cove, which at that time was constantly buzzing with activity. Pre-pandemic, the Cove typically welcomed more than 200 daily visitors, from angel investors to executives attending pitch competitions, educational talks, and Monday night football watch parties with startups pitching during halftime. Today, in-person activity is gradually returning to its usual pace.

Montoya got support from Applied Innovation through its Small Business Development Center and Wayfinder incubator, which provides classes, access to experts and investors, and space at the Cove. Her technology company, AgTools – an online platform that tracks billions of data points for fresh produce being grown and shipped around the world – now has headquarters in Irvine as well as satellite offices in Washington, New Jersey, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Click here to read the full article on the UCI News website.

UCI scientists make X-ray vision-like camera to rapidly retrieve 3D images

By: Lucas Van Wyk Joel

Photo by: Dmitry Fishman, Eric Potma, David Knez / UCI

Tech can visualize various materials, structures with detailed chemical information

Irvine, Calif., July 21, 2021 — It’s not exactly X-ray vision, but it’s close. In research published in the journal Optica, University of California, Irvine researchers describe a new type of camera technology that, when aimed at an object, can rapidly retrieve 3D images, displaying its chemical content down to the micrometer scale. The new tech promises to help companies inspect things like the insides of computer chips without having to pry them open — an advancement the researchers say could accelerate the production time of such goods by more than a hundred times.

“This is a paper about a way to visualize things in 3D very fast, even at video rate,” said Dmitry Fishman – director of laser spectroscopy labs in the UCI Department of Chemistry –  who, along with Eric Potma, professor of chemistry, spearheaded the work. The novel imaging tech is based on a so-called nonlinear optical effect in silicon – a semiconductor material used in visible-light cameras and detectors.

Through such a nonlinear optical effect, conventional silicon detectors can sense light coming from the mid-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The reason being, Fishman explained, is that the mid-infrared spectral region carries important information on the material’s chemical make-up. “Most molecular vibrations and signatures are in the mid-infrared range,” he said.

Other technologies, he explained, are slow to retrieve images, because the laser light needs to scan across the object – a process that takes a longer amount of time. “A nonlinear optical ‘trick’ with short laser pulses allowed us to capture a depth-resolved image on a camera in one shot, thus providing an alternative method to what other people are doing – and the advance is that this is not just faster, but also produces 3D images with chemical contrast,” Fishman said.

And the imaging technology isn’t just for computer chips. Potma explained that the system can also image things like ceramics used to make things like heat shield plates on space shuttles and reveal clues about any structural weaknesses that might be there.

The research follows in the wake of work by Potma and Fishman and a team of researchers published last year in Nature’s Light: Science & Applications that describes the first steps toward creating efficient mid-infrared detection technology using off-the-shelf silicon-based cameras. Back then, the technology was just beginning to take shape, but now, Fishman explained, it’s getting close to being ready for the mainstream. “This time we made it much more efficient and better,” he said.

Funding for the work came from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The work was done in collaboration between UCI scientists and Yong Chen, a professor in the Epstein Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

Click here to read the full article on the UCI News website.

Karthik Prasad, 2021 ASLMS Research Grant Recipient

The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS) Announces the 2021 Student Research Grant Recipients

ASLMS supports research projects designed to foster the development and use of lasers and other related technologies in medical and surgical applications.  This year, Karthik Prasad, a medical student at the UCI Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic, under the support of ASLMS member and BLIMC faculty Dr. Brian Wong, has received an ASLMS 2021 Student Research Grant for his research “Multimodal Optical Characterization of Electromechanical Corneal Reshaping.”

For more information, please click here.

Standout Teams in I-Corps Program Conduct Market Research for their Technologies

By: Jackie Connor

Photo by: UCI Beall Applied Innovation

It’s no secret that conducting market research to develop a technology or potential startup has been more difficult as of late. Despite the changes caused by the coronavirus, UCI Beall Applied Innovation’s I-Corps program has helped UC Irvine innovators to continue their path toward commercialization in a safe and healthy way.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the I-Corps program is a market discovery program that leads campus innovators through an immersive learning process. Within the program’s market discovery component, teams have interviewed their potential client base via Zoom and phone calls.

At UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, a team of innovators designed a UCI technology called coherent spatial imaging (CSI), or a compact, wearable sensor that combines continuous blood flow and oxygenation measurements to estimate metabolism. The team’s goal is to include measurements, such as blood flow and metabolism, as part of a clinician’s vital assessment to understand more details about a patient.

Click here to read the full article on the UCI Beall Applied Innovation website.

StyloSonic wins Life Sciences Track of the 2021 UCI New Venture Competition

During the 2021 17th annual UCI New Venture Competition, Stylosonic, a miniaturized handpiece that uses ultrasound/photoacoustic imaging to assist dentists and periodontists in accurately diagnosing gingivitis in the early stage and reducing the rate of advanced gum disease, won the Life Sciences track.

The Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business hosts the annual New Venture Competition. This 7-month long entrepreneurship program is dedicated to cultivating the entrepreneurial mindset and launching student startups in the Orange County area.

The 2021 competition, sporting nearly $100,000 in cash and in prizes, followed a competitive 85 concept submissions and 54 semi-finalists. During the Finale, the top two of each of the five tracks competed for Grand Prize in a 3-minute fast-pitch, facing a panel of distinguished judges from Orange County’s startup ecosystem.

Click here to learn more about the UCI New Venture Competition.

Yama Akbari promoted to Associate Professor

Dr. Yama Akbari of UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic was promoted to associate professor of neurology and neurological surgery.  As a critical care neurologist and neuroscientist, Akbari specializes in neuro-critical care, caring for patients in the UCI Health Neuro-Intensive Care Unit (Neuro-ICU).

On campus, Akbari and his laboratory team study consciousness, coma and cardiac arrest and resuscitation.  The goal of this research is to improve our understanding of consciousness and coma due to various types of acute brain injury, as well as improving resuscitation maneuvers for the treatment of cardiac arrest – all efforts to protect the brain.

Akbari has made significant contributions as a UCI clinician-scientist, having established the first cardiac arrest and resuscitation laboratory on campus.  “As the only cardiac arrest laboratory in the western U.S., we consult with others across the country,” stated Akbari, “We have a unique opportunity to mimic what happens in a hospital setting and study how everything in the body is connected.”

Akbari’s laboratory mimics an ICU to optimize translational potential, thus incorporating multimodal monitoring with neurophysiology, cardiac and pulmonary physiology and signal processing of brain connectivity.  In collaboration with other researchers at UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, he has broadened his multimodal platform to include advanced optical imaging of cerebral blood flow and brain metabolism during cardiac arrest and resuscitation.

Research collaborator Dr. Bernard Choi, associate director of UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic and professor of biomedical engineering and surgery, explains that Akbari is keenly interested in the integration of noninvasive optical technologies to monitor blood flow and oxygen utilization in the brain.  This information helps in identifying patients who are at high risk for major neurological events, such as ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

“Dr. Akbari provides a critically important clinical perspective on the role that new medical devices can play in saving the lives of patients who suffer from cardiac arrest and other cerebrovascular maladies,” stated Choi, “He is an outstanding clinical-scientist who is committed to improving the long-term outcomes of patients in the neuro-ICU.”

Along with caring for critically ill patients and conducting laboratory research, Akbari teaches undergraduate, graduate and medical students, as well as residents and clinical fellows.

“I enjoy my interactions with Dr. Akbari – he is passionate about his work and extremely knowledgeable on both the clinical and engineering aspects of his research endeavors,” said Choi, “He approaches his research with creativity and enthusiasm, and he is always willing to educate and support the trainees who work with him.”

“There are both scientific and emotional aspects of being both a researcher and physician,” said Akbari, “I take caring for my patients very seriously and I feel honored to be able to impact their lives.”

Akbari earned a B.S. in psychobiology from UCLA, followed by a combined M.D. and Ph.D. at UCI.  His Ph.D. studies focused on molecular neuroscience in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior.  He completed a neurology residency at UCLA, followed by a 2-year neurocritical care fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.  In 2012, Akbari returned to UCI as a tenure-track physician and scientist.

Click here to learn more about the Akbari Lab.

Michael Berns elected British Royal Society of Medicine Fellow

UCI professor of cell biology follows in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Edward Jenner and Sigmund Freud among many other of the world’s most eminent scientists

Among numerous prestigious scientists and physicians, Michael Berns, cofounder and founding director of UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in the United Kingdom.

“I am truly honored to be invited to join the Royal Society, especially because it’s the same society that has honored so many elite luminaries of the past,” said Berns.

Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society of Medicine are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science.  The Society’s 200-year-old history has seen prominent figures in medicine and science as part of its membership and governance.  Famous Fellows include Charles DarwinLouis PasteurEdward Jenner and Sigmund Freud.  Elected Fellows of the British Royal Society of Medicine are comparable to members of the National Academy of Medicine in the United States.

The Society is a leading provider of high quality continuing postgraduate education and learning to the medical profession.  The mission of the organization is to advance health, through education and innovation.

The Royal Society of Medicine was founded in 1805 as the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London.  In 1834, the Society was granted a Royal Charter by King William IV and was renamed, becoming the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.  In 1907, the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London merged with 15 specialist medical societies and, with a supplementary Royal Charter granted by Edward VII, the Royal Society of Medicine was born.

The organization hosts scientific symposia and training courses, as well as public information and discussion events.  In addition, the Society operates one of the largest medical libraries in the world with approximately 600,000 volumes and 12,000 journals. 

Berns was invited to join the Royal Society of Medicine based on his extensive biomedical optics contributions in the fields of biology and medicine. In addition to the Royal Society of Medicine, Berns is a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters. In the United States, Berns is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the International Society of Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

“I am grateful to UCI and the Beckman Laser Institute for all the support in encouraging my career development in biomedical optics during the last 50 years,” stated Berns.

In 1994, Berns received the UCI Medal.  In 2011, he was honored with the Fariborz Maseeh Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award from the UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Learn more about Michael Berns and the British Royal Society of Medicine.