Changing Lives through Research

Changing Lives through Research

Changing Lives through Research

The Georgia Tech research enterprise dreams big — and puts those dreams into action by partnering with industry and government to create the next big life-altering breakthroughs.

Major Boost for Flu Vaccine Delivery

Researchers believe a new self-administered vaccine skin patch containing microscopic needles could significantly increase the number of people who get vaccinated, about 40 percent of American adults per year.

A phase I clinical trial funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by Emory University in collaboration with researchers from Georgia Tech found that influenza vaccination using Band-Aid-like patches with dissolvable microneedles was well tolerated by study participants, generated a robust immunity against influenza, and was strongly preferred by study participants over vaccination with a hypodermic needle and syringe.

A closeup of a doctor's hand pressing a quarter-size microneedle patch onto a the back of a patient's hand

“Despite the recommendation of universal flu vaccination, influenza continues to be a major cause of illness leading to significant morbidity and mortality,” said first author Nadine Rouphael, M.D., associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at Emory University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the clinical trial. “Having the option of a flu vaccine that can be easily and painlessly self-administered could increase coverage and protection by this important vaccine.”

“People have a lot of reasons for not getting flu vaccinations,” said senior co-author Mark Prausnitz, Ph.D., Georgia Tech Regents Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “One of the main goals of developing the microneedle patch technology was to make vaccines accessible to more people. Traditionally, if you get an influenza vaccine you need to visit a health care professional who will administer the vaccine using a hypodermic needle. The vaccine is stored in the refrigerator, and the used needle must be disposed of in a safe manner. With the microneedle patch, you could pick it up at the store and take it home, put it on your skin for a few minutes, peel it off and dispose of it safely, because the microneedles have dissolved away. The patches can also be stored outside the refrigerator, so you could even mail them to people.”

Renowned Clinical Research Organization Joins Tech’s GCMI

The Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) has acquired the ownership interest in T3 Labs, an industry-leading preclinical CRO (clinical research organization) in Atlanta, from Emory/Saint Joseph’s Inc.

T3 Labs was previously a development partner of GCMI. Their good laboratory practice (GLP) compliant services directly complement GCMI’s existing good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant device development services and its medtech accelerator. T3 Labs has helped more than 30 medical devices achieve regulatory approval.

“From concept to development through clinical trials, the critical infrastructure to support successful medtech innovation resides within close proximity to our facilities,” said GCMI CEO Tiffany Wilson. “With T3 Labs under GCMI’s umbrella, we have enhanced operational efficiencies for both, creating and maintaining a capital-efficient environment through collaboration and resource alignment. This is a high-value proposition for medical product innovators, entrepreneurs, and regional and global economic development.

“Medical device innovation is a complex, expensive process, yet there is a tremendous need for novel solutions to unmet clinical needs,” Wilson continued. “These are the technologies that will ultimately benefit patients and lower health care costs by improving the way physicians diagnose and treat disease. Given metro Atlanta’s and Georgia’s fantastic resources — which includes expertise at GCMI, T3 Labs, Georgia Tech, Emory Healthcare, and all University System of Georgia schools — and given GCMI’s access to resources and customers worldwide, we can help derisk many new medical technologies in a methodical way.”

Portrait of Dana Randall and Srinivas Aluru

Dana Randall and Srinivas Aluru, co-executive directors of the Institute for Data Engineering and Science.

Data Engineering and Science IRI Formed to Facilitate Key Partnerships

Georgia Tech advanced its efforts to tackle the challenges of big data by creating the Institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS). The new Interdisciplinary Research Institute (IRI) unites researchers across Georgia Tech, fosters important partnerships with industry, and plays a key role in building the community of the recently announced Coda building in Technology Square.

IDEaS is jointly led by Co-Executive Directors Srinivas Aluru and Dana Randall, both professors in the College of Computing, and includes researchers and faculty who span all six colleges, creating critical interdisciplinary research opportunities and positioning Georgia Tech at the forefront of big data solutions.

“As Georgia Tech becomes more visible as a thought leader in data science and engineering, the big idea for IDEaS is to provide the coordination and expertise necessary to link researchers across the Institute, strengthening our position in big data,” said Steve Cross, executive vice president for Research. “Doing so better equips them to take on important and complex problems. It creates meaningful partnerships and accessible resources, and educates future data science leaders.”

IDEaS will facilitate new ventures and industrial collaboration between Technology Square’s recently announced Coda building research neighborhoods, providing a unique opportunity for academia to rub shoulders with industry, and be an asset to other premier education, research, and public-serving institutions in Georgia. It will also collaborate with several stakeholders in Georgia, including the Technology Association of Georgia and the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and serve as an incubator for economic development opportunities.

3-D Printed Tensegrity Objects Capable of Dramatic Shape Change

A team of researchers from Georgia Tech has developed a way to use 3-D printers to create objects capable of expanding dramatically that could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices.

Jon Duke standing in the lobby of the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta building at Egleston.

Jon Duke, M.D., is serving as Georgia Tech's director of Health Data Analytics.

Role of Big Data in Health Analytics Continues to Grow

One of the disciplines that’s being dramatically transformed by the rise of big data is health analytics.

Reflecting the importance of this trend is last year’s hiring of Jon Duke, M.D., to serve as Georgia Tech’s director of Health Data Analytics. Based at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), Duke previously served as director of Health Analytics and Advanced Text Mining at the Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University.

Duke will lead GTRI’s initiative to improve human health through better capture, interpretation, and application of data. This effort will incorporate a spectrum of expertise including machine learning, natural language processing, high-performance computing, sensors, cybersecurity, and health data interoperability. The result will be real-world projects supporting not only research environments but also health care systems, government and industry partners, and community collaborations.

Over the last several years, Duke has directed more than $21 million in data research for industry and government sponsors. He has worked to expand on strategies for capturing better health care data, streamlining insights for stakeholders, and delivering effective data-based interventions.

Big data is also playing a prominent role in a collaborative project between Georgia Tech and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Liberate the data” was a principal design goal for the team of public-private health care technology collaborators established by Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to develop a working and scalable proof-of-concept digital health platform (DHP) to support the department’s long-term vision.

The open-source project demonstrated both proven and emerging technologies for interoperability and advanced functionality innovations from both the public and private sectors. The proof-of-concept delivers capabilities that VA and VHA leadership had identified as strategically important to support clinical and operational policy and program transformation plans needed to address expected changes in veteran populations, service needs, and care delivery models.

For example, the demonstration included the capability to obtain patient data from disparate military and commercial electronic records systems, and accept information from a broad range of ancillary services and consumer medical devices.

Georgia Tech served as the project’s lead architect and provided overall project management.

A closeup of wires and the back of a server

$17 Million Grant to Help Establish Science of Cyber Attribution

Georgia Tech was awarded a $17.3 million cybersecurity research contract to help establish new science around the ability to quickly, objectively, and positively identify the virtual actors responsible for cyberattacks, a technique known as “attribution.”

While the tools and techniques to be developed during the four-and-a-half-year effort won’t point directly to the individuals responsible, the initiative will provide proof of involvement by specific groups, identifiable by their methods of attack, consistent errors, and other unique characteristics. Such attribution could support potential sanctions and policy decisions — and discourage attacks by providing transparency for activities that are normally hidden.

The research, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, will be led by researchers at Georgia Tech in collaboration with other academic institutions and companies. The project is expected to create an attribution framework dubbed Rhamnousia — in Greek mythology, the goddess of Rhamnous and the spirit of divine retribution.

“We should know who our friends are and who our enemies are in the cyber domain,” said Manos Antonakakis, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the project’s principal investigator. “We owe it to the people of this country to objectively reason about the actors attacking systems, stealing intellectual property, and tampering with our data. We want to take away the potential deniability that these attack groups now have.”

Georgia Tech hosts a bipartisan panel on Cybersecurity

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) participated in a panel discussion about cyber self-defense held on Georgia Tech's campus.

Cyber Innovation and Training Center Is Launched

Governor Nathan Deal announced $50 million in funding to establish the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta. Georgia Tech is providing key support and resources for the center, a state-owned cyber range that brings together academia, private industry, and government to establish cybersecurity standards across state and local agencies to develop and practice protocols for responding to cyber threats.

“We should know who our friends are and who our enemies are in the cyber domain ... We want to take away the potential deniability that these attack groups now have.”

Manos Antonakakis

“Cybersecurity is especially important now that cybercrime is bigger than the global black market for marijuana, cocaine, and heroin combined,” said Deal. “The protection of Georgia’s citizens, businesses, and institutions in the digital realm is becoming significantly more necessary as cybercrime continues to grow. Building on our efforts to keep Georgia safe and maintain its status as the No. 1 state in which to do business, we are taking action to ensure that Georgia leads the way on cybersecurity.”

The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center will advance the field of information security with research on vulnerability that will help ensure reliable and effective practices. The facility will be focused on training, education, research, and development and will act as an incubator hub for cybersecurity startup companies. This concept is designed to challenge professionals and systems in a safe and protected setting in preparation for cyber incidents.

Internet of Things Research Center Adds Prestigious Firms to Its Ranks

Georgia Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies (CDAIT) added four prominent firms to its growing list of members in fiscal year 2017. The list includes the following:

  • Amazon Web Services: A secure cloud services platform offering computing power, database storage, content delivery, and other functionality to help businesses scale and grow.
  • Eaton: A power management company with 2016 sales of $19.7 billion that provides energy-efficient solutions to help consumers manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power more efficiently, safely, and sustainably.
  • Honeywell: A Fortune 100 software-industrial company that delivers industry-specific solutions that include aerospace and automotive products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes, and industry; and performance materials globally.
  • Kimberly-Clark: The company’s well-known global brands — including Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex, and Depends — enhance the health, hygiene, and well-being of people in more than 175 countries.

CDAIT (pronounced “sedate”) is a global, non-profit, partner-funded center that fosters interdisciplinary research and education while driving general awareness about the Internet of Things. CDAIT bridges sponsors with Georgia Tech faculty and researchers as well as industry members with similar interests.

Scheller Research Indicates That Sound in Ads Matters

Portrait of Michael Lowe

Michael Lowe, assistant professor of marketing at Scheller College of Business, studied the relationship between acoustic pitch and perceptions of size in advertising.

Lower pitches in voices or music in advertisements lead consumers to infer a larger product size, according to a new study by researchers at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business and Vanderbilt University.

While sound is a fundamental element of nearly all marketing communications, from commercials to spokespeople and sales associates, Michael Lowe, assistant professor of marketing at Scheller College of Business, and Kelly Haws, associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, indicated that marketers don’t have a firm grasp on what it communicates to customers.

“Research to date suggests that managers too often select music and spokespeople by intuition, with limited understanding regarding how these elements might affect actual product perceptions,” Lowe and Haws wrote in their new paper for The Journal of Marketing Research. “Some degree of importance, then, should be given to understanding what is actually being communicated about the product at a sensory level.”

In their paper, titled “Sounds Big: The Effects of Acoustic Pitch on Product Perceptions,” the coauthors show in six different studies how the effects of acoustic pitch on consumer beliefs depend on “cross-modal correspondence,” defined as the compatibility of stimuli perceived by one sense, such as sound, with a sensory experience in another, like sight.

One study found that acoustic pitch differences in voice affects perceptions of size. Participants listened to a radio advertisement for a new sandwich at a fictitious sandwich chain where a spokesperson’s voice was digitally altered to be higher or lower. Participants who heard the ad featuring the lower-pitched voice believed the sandwich was significantly larger than those who heard the higher-pitched version.

The same trend was observed in a separate study that tested the pitch level of music. Participants viewed a TV advertisement, with voiceover removed, for a laptop computer and answered several questions about their perceptions. Those who viewed a version of the ad with lower-pitched music perceived the laptop to be larger than those who viewed the higher-pitched variety.

Hair Spacing Keeps Honeybees Clean During Pollination

A Georgia Tech study that looked at how honeybees do their job and manage to stay clean found that a honeybee can carry up to 30 percent of its body weight in pollen because of the strategic spacing of its nearly 3 million hairs. The hairs cover the insect’s eyes and entire body in various densities that allow efficient cleaning and transport. The research found that the gap between each eye hair is approximately the same size as a grain of dandelion pollen, which is typically collected by bees. This keeps the pollen suspended above the eye and allows the forelegs to comb through and collect the particles.

Imlay Foundation Gives $5 Million for Pediatric Therapies Research

Portrait of group in lab

From left, M.G. Finn, chief scientific officer of Georgia Tech's Pediatric Technology Center and chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Mary Ellen Imlay, chair of the Imlay Foundation; and Dr. Patrick Frias, chief operating officer at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, in a laboratory in the Krone Engineered Biosystems Building where research is conducted via the Children's-Georgia Tech partnership.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Tech received a $5 million grant from The Imlay Foundation for the development of pediatric therapies. The single largest grant made by The Imlay Foundation in its 25-year history, the commitment establishes The Imlay Innovation Fund at Children’s Healthcare to advance collaboration between Georgia Tech and Children’s pediatric innovation and discovery efforts.

The research partnership with Georgia Tech is called the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Technology Center. The collaborative research fostered through this partnership brings together clinicians from Children’s, academic scientists from Emory University, and engineers from Georgia Tech to solve important problems in pediatrics and develop technological solutions for improving the health of children. With the formation of the Children’s Pediatric Technology Center, Children’s and Georgia Tech are providing extraordinary opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration in pediatrics, creating breakthrough discoveries that often can only be found at the intersection of multiple disciplines.

“It is through generous philanthropy that we are able to foster these alliances that help enhance the lives of children,” said Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s. “Mary Ellen Imlay and her late husband, John, have demonstrated their love and appreciation of Children’s and Georgia Tech in a myriad of ways over the years through their volunteerism, board leadership, and philanthropy. This grant furthers their deep commitment to Children’s and Georgia Tech.”

The grant will help fund two collaborative programs, including Quick Wins, a novel program that allows Children’s clinicians and clinical administrative leaders to bring problems that impact care delivery to the attention of scientists and engineers at Georgia Tech to help develop technology-based solutions to improve pediatric health care. The funds will also support a program to help bridge the gap following proof to concept, giving investigators the ability to collect data, complete further proof-of-concept studies, or produce prototypes for testing in order to advance a solution to the next stage of development.

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