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A million volunteers in view

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Bioengineering now makes up about 13% of the overall budget of the National Institutes of Health, and this number is only projected to grow. During a keynote address at BiOS 2020 in February in San Francisco, Bruce Tromberg traced this expansion to the rapid development of technologies in microscopy and spectroscopy and the converging trends of private innovation and public participation. Tromberg, the director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), made an appeal to the health care community that this private-public partnership needs to not only continue, but to grow stronger.

Tromberg recently testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies that research and discovery had borne fruit in the creation of a miniaturized device for food analysis at the dinner table, as well as the combination of imaging and ultrasound methods to noninvasively identify breast cancer.

To make sure these trends capture data from and benefit the most people, NIBIB — in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — has made grant opportunities available for the prototyping of wearable sensors, mobile therapy, and point-of-care diagnostic tools. And through the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, now known as the All of Us Research Program, the NIH is seeking one million volunteers to build a database of health care data that may one day provide virtual clinical trials for new medical treatment.

New and exciting approaches are already at our doorstep. In my cover story on optogenetics, I describe the use of the transmembrane rhodopsins that are common in many forms of life. When introduced through a stereotaxic procedure and excited by light, these proteins can enable the control of specific processes in the brain. Read more.

On the topic of the analysis of new pharmaceuticals, author Thomas Juliano writes that terahertz time-domain spectroscopy has been applied to both flat-faced and biconvex tablets to demonstrate porosity. This quality is instrumental to the dispersion of ingredients in essential medications, as Juliano explains here. Amira Tandirovic Gursel writes about how fiber lasers for MIR and NIR spectroscopy have been widely implemented in nondestructive analysis of bulk materials and are being envisioned for noninvasive monitoring of physiological parameters, including glucose.

According to author Gabe Siegel, artificial intelligence algorithms, when used in whole-slide imaging, can stitch together both images and notations for display right in front of the pathologist. This will enable a clinician to use not only information regarding a patient’s current health but also data sets from other experts when making a decision, as Siegel explains here.

Finally, in this edition’s “Biopinion,” authors Veronika Marek and Michael Haddad share that instruments and processes in biophotonics have produced a broad range of benefits for cosmetic laboratories, in both fundamental research and in the evaluation of products and ingredients. Find out how technology is changing the way we look and feel.

Enjoy the issue!

Mar/Apr 2020

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