Aligned In Pediatric Innovation: A Foundational Spotlight on Our Partnership with Shriners Children’s

Medtech innovation that originates with unmet clinical needs brought forth by clinicians themselves have high potential to improve care and outcomes and successfully reach full-scale commercialization.

This is a key reason projects we support with funding, development, regulatory approval, and commercialization activities all originate with an unmet clinical need and require both a Shriners Children’s clinical lead and an engineering lead at Georgia Tech.

Unmet clinical needs in pediatric care are not limited to our local healthcare ecosystem. They present themselves from providers across the country and beyond, frequently through colleagues affiliated with organizations like the International Society for Pediatric Innovation (iSPI) and the International Children’s Advisory Network (iCAN).

Marc Lalande, PhD, Vice President of Research programs for Shriners Children’s, learned about Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies through a colleague at Pfizer via the iCAN network in 2018. After a series of discussions between Lalande, Georgia Tech Chief Engineer of Pediatric Technology Leanne West, and other center members about the potential of a formal collaboration to advance the missions of both entities, West received the full support of the Institute to make this happen.

Founded in 1922, the Shiners Children’s healthcare system now operates locations across the United States, as well as in Mexico and Canada. In early 2020, Shriners Children’s and Georgia Tech announced a collaborative research effort to improve care through innovation starting with neuromuscular conditions.

This collaboration sought to fill the gap in engineering talent needed to support the development of technologies to fill the unmet clinical needs and take Shriners Children’s research capabilities ‘to the next level.’

From the Georgia Tech News Center, “The new research affiliation brings together the clinical, surgical, and scientific expertise of Shriners Children’s physicians and researchers with Georgia Tech’s cutting-edge expertise in biomedical engineering, robotics, and device development. The coordinated effort also will leverage the two organizations’ proficiency in big data and artificial intelligence tools for personalized medicine,” according to [Lalande].

“Our joint goals, through genetic and genomic data gathered by Shriners Children’s, are to improve patient therapeutic responses by optimizing individualized treatment regimens and reducing adverse events,” Lalande said.

Accelerating Collaboration Launch to Results on Projects In-Flight

Image credit: Georgia Tech, Rob Felt

More than three years on, the research collaboration has generated more than a dozen innovation projects in flight, the first of which are robotic exoskeleton technologies including sensor technologies that provide sensations to other parts of the body to improve use of prosthetics for the aforementioned neurological conditions, led by Georgia Tech Assistant Professor Frank Hammond.

Other Georgia Tech faculty collaborating on innovative new technologies for pediatric applications with Shriners Children’s include Jaydev Desai, May Wang and Aaron Young and Frank Hammond whose projects continue their development pathway at this time.

Again from the Georgia Tech News Center, “This collaboration is extremely important for us because not only have we committed to work on a major national need in youth health, but also because we have been planning to establish a pediatric big data center using advanced IT and AI,” said Wang, whose collaborators at Shriners Children’s include Gerald Harris (Motion Analysis, Shriners Children’s Chicago) and Kamran Shazand (Shriners Children’s Genomics Institute, Tampa, Florida).

“Our lab has piloted multiple pediatric projects. But this project represents a quantum leap, taking our work to the next level, in a real-world pediatric care setting. [Shriners Childrens] is a perfect fit for us.”

In some form or fashion, Shriners Children’s has funded 11 projects with Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies to date. We anticipate follow-on, next-milestone development funding for Professor Wang’s technology in the near future.

Marc Lalande. Image credit: Shriners Children’s

“The current collaborative bioengineering projects between Shriners Children’s and [Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies] focus on customized exoskeletons to assist walking in Cerebral Palsy patients as well as improving hand and limb functions of children with spinal cord injuries using exoskeleton technology and sensory transfer devices,” Lalande wrote. “The partnership also involves constructing state-of-the-art tools to mine our extensive clinical research databases for designing studies to improve the quality of health of children treated at Shriners. Our future collaborations will extend and expand this first phase of innovation with an emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI) tools for performing and optimizing clinical research.

“The unique mission and expertise of Leanne West and the GTPT team have been invaluable in identifying and matching the engineers to work with Shriners physicians and surgeons. This is the most consequential and wide-ranging biomedical engineering partnership in Shriners Children’s history. The past and future success of this engagement is entirely dependent on the GTPT’s enthusiastic support of our clinical research initiatives to benefit Shriners Children’s pediatric patients.”

Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies will host the Shriners Children’s State of Research Symposium in March 2023. Much of the event will focus on expanding opportunities for new methodologies and research in AI, motion capture, and tissue engineering.

Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies’ Vision and Mission
We envision a world where our collective commitment, expertise and collaboration brings novel technologies to the bedside of pediatric patients, directly improving their health outcomes on a global scale.

Leanne West

Our mission is to accelerate development, regulatory approval, and clinical utility of new medical technologies for pediatric patients. We connect researchers including engineers, data analysts, scientists, chemists, and others with front-line pediatric clinicians to create new technologies for unmet pediatric healthcare needs. We further work within a broader ecosystem to connect those parties to the funding, institutional, development, regulatory, and industrial resources needed to make them clinically and commercially viable.

“We believe our relationship with Shriners Children’s is a stellar example of what’s possible when clinician-driven unmet needs in pediatric technologies combine with our world-class engineering and ‘connecting’ capabilities,” West said.

Stay tuned for more detail and news on Shriners Children’s / GTPT projects in-flight and future endeavors through this channel. In the meantime, follow GTPT on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.