GEM Phase I and Project Example


Clinically active UCSD faculty are invited to submit a proposal describing a specific medical challenge or unmet need that presents an opportunity for innovation involving an engineering solution to improve patient care. Healthcare improvement may be achieved through innovation in disease prevention, diagnosis, monitoring and/or treatment.

Clinical faculty who submit entries to the GEM Challenge Phase I must include a clear statement of a problem that would require an engineering solution of any type and succinct articulation of the potential impact of a solution. The applicant must be willing to work with GEM to establish a collaborative team composed of clinicians and engineers to solve the problem. Academic credit for scholarly activity is anticipated as a result of participating in this activity. We encourage ideas from students, fellows, and other healthcare workers, but they must identify a clinical faculty member who will submit the proposal and take responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the project.

A panel of CTRI, IEM, and ORA experts will judge these applications based on the following criteria:

Significance: To what extent does the problem or challenge impede or adversely affect patient care?

Innovation and “Coolness” Factor: To what extent does the problem focus on an unmet medical need that is not being addressed elsewhere and can uniquely be solved with the resources available at UCSD? Will solving the problem be recognized as a landmark advance for healthcare?

Feasibility: Is the problem likely to be amenable to an engineering solution that can be accomplished in a 12 to 18 month time frame?

Investigator: How well qualified is the clinical faculty member to collaborate with engineers to solve the proposed challenge?

The highest ranked proposals will move to Phase II. The number of Phase I proposals selected to move forward to the Phase II competition is anticipated to be in the range of 5-10, however the actual number will depend on the number and quality of Phase I submissions.

The following are examples of types of clinical problems that might be proposed (for illustration purposes only):

  • Need to make frequent measurements of physiological indicators non-invasively in an outpatient, or in a fragile patient.
  • Need to develop a proxy indicator of a physiological parameter that is difficult to measure.
  • Need to make a replacement for a body part.
  • Need to deliver a specific therapy to patients with physical limitations
  • Need to obtain information using wireless technology to improve patient monitoring

How to Apply for Phase I - Entries for Phase I should be submitted using an online application ( and provide the following:

  1. Narrative that contains a clear statement of the Aim, Rationale, Challenge/Need and Significance, Innovation, Feasibility, and Investigator Qualifications. (two pages maximum, 11-point Arial font, 1-inch margins all around)
  2. NIH-style biographical sketch including current and pending support (four pages maximum per investigator) for each member of the submitting team.

The deadline for the submission of entries is 5:00 pm on November 22, 2013.


Epidermal Electronic Monitoring of Neonates with Brain Injury
Mary J. Harbert, MD (Neurosciences)
Todd P. Coleman, PhD (Bioengineering)

Neonatal intensive care has brought amazing advances in the survival of critically ill newborns. The greatest advance has been stabilizing newborns with heart and lung problems. Now this clinical specialty is a victim of its own success: the key challenge for newborns has moved from the heart and lung to brain injury. Seizures, ischemia, and brain hemorrhage are current problems that if left untreated, can give rise to neuro-developmental problems and cerebral palsy. A new subspecialty, neonatal neurointensive care, has arisen and developed long-term electroencephalography (EEG) brain monitoring and treatment methodologies. Much still remains, however, to be understood about the sick newborn brain so treatments can be specifically tailored to improve outcomes. For example, the use of EEG in the neonatal ICU is challenging and limited, due to the need for experts to carefully apply the electrodes to skin, and the risk of infection due to the fragility of the newborn skin. There is an acute need for unobtrusive ways to measure brain function in the critically ill neonate.

New epidermal electronics technology, also called “tattoo electronics”, is unnoticeable to the wearer and consists of thin electric circuitry that is transferable to the skin with a temporary tattoo. These systems have enormous potential to revolutionize bodily monitoring by turning conventional, bulky, wired instrumentation into ultra-thin, stretchable, skin-mounted devices that can transmit data wirelessly. The EES is made entirely of FDA-approved materials, will improve patient comfort, and potentially eliminate the need for certain types of invasive procedures.

In this project, Dr. Coleman and Dr. Harbert will develop a platform for minimally obtrusive monitoring of brain function of newborns with using epidermal electronics.