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Cleveland: A Powerhouse for Partnerships

Collaboration among researchers, clinicians and industry is key to success in biomedical engineering. Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering is fortunate to be located in the heart of Cleveland, a global center for health innovation. It’s surrounded by four major hospital systems — Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, University Hospitals, and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. In addition, there are more than 700 biomedical companies in northeast Ohio, according to The Medical Capital Initiative convened by BioEnterprise.

Such close proximity to a wide variety of biomedical organizations yields fruitful partnerships. “Cleveland is often underappreciated in terms of how much of a powerhouse it is for biomedical research,” says Vamsidhar Velcheti, a Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and staff physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center. “You have world-class medical institutions here, and at the same time you have access to some of the best minds at Case Western Reserve University — especially in biomedical engineering. It provides for a scientifically stimulating environment.”

Velcheti, who specializes in lung cancer, has teamed up with Anant Madabhushi for several years. Madabhushi is a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University and director of the Center of Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics.
Together, they are researching effective ways of quantifying and predicting early response to targeted therapies for lung cancer using radiographic analysis of CT scans and histomorphometric analysis of tissue images.

“I have a lot of interest in translational research and biomarkers to identify patients who would benefit from certain treatments,” says Velcheti. “Collaborating with someone like Dr. Madabhushi presents a great opportunity to advance science and create new diagnostic tools to help better assist our patients in getting the right treatments.”

The project between Madabhushi and Velcheti is just one of many researcher/clinician partnerships fostered by biomedical engineers at Case Western Reserve University. Working together in Cleveland, one of the nation’s top medical hubs, provides promise for translational research.

The business community recognizes the opportunities created by Case Western Reserve University, its medical institution partners and others. Since 2001, approximately $2.3 billion has been invested in more than 400 biomedical start-up companies in Cleveland, according to The Medical Capital initiative.

“Cleveland, The Medical Capital, is a hotbed of global health innovation,” says Annette Ballou, vice president of strategic marketing and communications for BioEnterprise, which helps nurture and grow local bioscience companies. “Cleveland is an asset-rich environment that fosters collaboration, and with that comes access. Access to resources, research, funding, relationships, talent — all the things a company needs to innovate, grow and thrive.”

This, in turn, attracts the attention of investors locally and worldwide. According to The Medical Capital initiative, there were 38 Cleveland-area biomedical investors and 96 national and international investors in local companies in 2017. When all these players come together — private and public investors, biomedical companies, and clinical and research institutions — they create a rich environment for furthering ground-breaking ideas. And Case Western Reserve’s biomedical engineering department is integral to many innovations.

“The biomedical engineering department plays a critical role in the success of The Medical Capital,” says Ballou. “The research, innovation and talent that it creates helps fuel the biomedical sector pipeline, contributing to the growth of the region’s biomedical ecosystem.”
Velcheti sums it up best, saying, “There’s opportunity for great things to happen here in Cleveland.”