Partnership Offers Promise for New Surgical Tools

Fall 2008

Researchers at the Whiting School and the School of Medicine have forged a partnership with Europe’s largest research organization. Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has a staff of 13,000 scientists and engineers, an annual research budget of € 1.3 billion, and is committed to undertaking various applied research projects for both the private and public sectors.

The partnership with the organization, which has more than 80 research units at locations across Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East, has resulted in the Johns Hopkins–Fraunhofer Initiative for Innovations in Interventional Medicine. The goal: to develop new, minimally invasive surgical tools.

“This agreement provides a wonderful opportunity for researchers from the two institutions to work together to develop important new medical tools and move them out of the lab and into applications where they can help patients,” says Kristina M. Johnson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Hopkins.

In the initial phase of the collaboration, projected to last a total of 15 months, scientific researchers and biomedical engineers will focus their efforts on three distinct but related projects. The development of a computer-aided endoscopy tool will enable physicians to better diagnose gastrointestinal disease. A laparoscopic surgery tool will help align pre-operative CT scans during surgery. And a new system will be developed to track endoscopes and surgical tools during medical procedures.

“Although this collaboration will initially focus on these three specific projects, we expect that the underlying technology developed can be applied to a broad spectrum of interventional and diagnostic medicine,” says Elliot McVeigh, Johns Hopkins’ director of Biomedical Engineering and the university’s Massey Professor.

Perhaps most importantly, McVeigh says, the partnership will prompt the development of long-term, working relationships that will bring new technologies into practice more rapidly.