Insights: 2023 Shriners Children’s Research Symposium Hosted by GT Pediatric Technologies

A Venue to Identify and Amplify Unmed Pediatric Needs and Solutions

“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 relationship 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.”

Marc Lalande. Image credit: Shriners Children’s

So stated Shriners Children’s Vice President for Research Programs Marc Lelande in a recent Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies spotlight.

In that light, you can imagine the enthusiasm with which Georgia Tech Pediatric Technologies hosted the Shriners Children’s State of Research Symposium earlier this month. Much of the event focused on expanding opportunities for new methodologies and research in AI, motion capture, and tissue engineering. But according to our own Leanne West, what we learned and the reasons for optimism it generated are foundational and significant.

We’ll let her own words speak for themselves in the following Q&A with our colleague Paul Snyder at Write2Market.

What were the top things you learned from the 2023 Shriners Children’s Research Symposium?

“Up to this point we have done a good job finding projects to work on together, with Jaydev Desai, May Wang, Aaron Young, and Frank Hammond, for example, whose projects continue their development pathway at this time.

“This event kicked the relationship up to a new level in large part because we had so many Georgia Tech faculty and students representing their work and because the event gave them substantial time to network with the Shriners team, especially the clinicians.

“In some cases, there is simply no better environment than an in-person for this kind of innovation.

W. Hong Yeo, PhD (Image credit: Georgia Tech)

“We are grateful to Shriners’ commitment to this partnership, as was evident in the onsite participation and engagement of their representatives including the clinicians, marketing team, board members, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Frances A. Farley.”


What was particularly exciting?

“The networking reception that included the student posters was outstanding. It was a big part of the time and opportunity the event gave Shriners the chance to talk to our researchers and students about what they’ve been working on.

“The first and second place prizes for best poster went to Hong Yeo’s lab, for flexible electronic sensors. They also are interested in Dr. Yeo’s Nanoengineering Group’s work on wireless sleep monitoring patches for sleep studies Shriners plans to conduct.

“I heard Shriners board members express strong interest in working with Dr. Yeo on multiple unmet clinical needs, which only furthers and strengthens all that we strive to accomplish.”

How about newly presented unmet needs?

“Shriners is known for its world class burn treatment centers, as well as their treatment of cerebral palsy, scoliosis, and musculoskeletal or ‘body movement’ issues. While pediatric burn cases in the United States are relatively low due to legislation like the Flammable Fabrics Act, the same is not true in other countries, therefore Shriners treats severe burn cases in children around the world.

“Travel requirements for transfer of burn patients can vary based on severity of burn. When GT faculty member, Alexey Tumanov, presented his work on AI prediction of sepsis, Shriners clinicians wondered if his techniques might be able to help predict which burn patients need transfer by air ambulance and which can safely travel on commercial flights to reduce some case costs and extend treatment resources for all concerned.

What short-term action might you take given what you heard and learned?

Leanne West

“If we haven’t already, we will shortly be making introductions for any participants who expressed interest in working with each other. Making those connections is core to our mission and our work every single day.

“We will almost certainly assist with the research we mentioned earlier based on Dr. Yeo’s technology and the coming Shriners Children’s sleep studies.

“The collective leadership determined that the strength of specific, direct interest in matching Shriners identified unmet needs with our faculty’s, students’ and researchers’ work warrants a return visit from a subset of the clinicians attending. We will be working immediately to arrange the framework and logistics for that to happen in May.

Did the event change your perception of the pediatric innovation landscape?

“No. But it certainly did validate and verify a number of unmet pediatric clinical needs, needs that just keep coming that we believe Georgia Tech can help solve.”