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Philips to Treat War Wounds With Ultrasound

by Michael Johns, Project Manager | July 21, 2006

The university has a research grant from DARPA of between $5 million and $6 million that it will spend over the next five years, with about $1.5 million budgeted this year, according to Lawrence Crum, director of the center for industrial and medical ultrasound at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory.

The university has been working on such technologies with industry partners like Philips as well as startup companies that came out of the university.

Noninvasive Surgery
The university originated the concept of acoustic hemostasis, or the use of ultrasound for treating internal bleeding, according to Dr. Crum. Other applications besides wound care include cancer treatment.

"We are interested in evolutionary technology," said Dr. Crum. "Medicine has been evolving from open surgery to minimally invasive surgery like laparoscopy, to the point of noninvasive surgery, where we think it will be done without any penetration at all." No anesthesia would be needed for such surgery.

The university has a device in development in China to treat pancreatic cancer where a person can lie down on a table and doctors can reach the tumor by shooting the ultrasound beam into the tumor without any invasive surgery at all. Dr. Crum said the university plans to submit an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in six to 12 months on such a treatment.

DARPA has been supporting the university's work in this area since 1996. The university has also worked with the Army, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation on the technology.

"Now DARPA is coming back and making a pretty large commitment to this thing," said Dr. Crum.

Other applications include gene therapy, where ultrasound can be applied to a DNA fragment or a gene to make the membrane of a cell permeable. "We can put the gene inside the cell, and that cell will express that gene," said Dr. Crum. This technique could be used to treat hemophilia, he added.

Patenting the Technology
Dr. Pashley isn't sure what the intellectual property implications will be for Philips and the university if the device is ultimately developed.

"We apply for patents on new pieces of technology we invent," he said. "There may be pieces we patent. The concept overall is probably the request from DARPA to have a system like this."

The contract will spell out who owns which pieces of intellectual property that get developed. "We would of course look for getting patents where we feel we have been able to invent something new in the process of this project, but I can't say whether that will or will not happen," said Dr. Pashley.