The GEM Challenge 2019 – Solving Clinical Problems with Engineering Solutions

UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) and the Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM) are pleased to announce the sixth round of the Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) competition to identify clinical challenges for which engineering solutions can be developed and implemented. Awards in the range of $60,000 will be given. GEM is funded by the Chancellor and has the overarching goal of building a collaborative ecosystem that leverages UCSD's outstanding strengths in clinical care and engineering to solve important healthcare problems.

This year, the GEM competition will have only one submission. We invite teams that include at least one Clinically Active UCSD Faculty Member and one Engineering Faculty Member to submit a proposal with two sections. Section One should describe 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. In Section Two, the team should describe in detail the engineering technology that will be developed to solve the problem.

Faculty who received a GEM award in 2018 are ineligible for this round of competition. 

A description of GEM Challenge projects that have previously been selected for funding can be found on the ACTRI web site under the GEM Program.

A panel of Clinicians, Engineers, Business Experts, and Representatives from the Office of Research Affairs will judge these applications based on the following criteria:

Significance: To what extent does the problem or challenge impede or adversely affect patient care and how will the specific engineering solution address and solve the specific challenge?

Innovation and "Coolness" Factor: To what extent does the problem focus on an unmet medical need that is not being addressed elsewhere? How novel is the engineering approach, and does it bring to bear the unique resources available at UCSD – expertise, infrastructure, other types of support, particularly in combination? Will solving the problem be recognized as a landmark advance for healthcare?

Feasibility: Can the engineering solution be accomplished (at least to the development of a prototype) in a 12 to 18-month time frame with a budget of approximately $60,000?

Commercialization: Can the engineering solution be commercialized and available to patients within a reasonable period of time?

Investigator: How well qualified is the team of clinical and engineering investigators to solve the problem?


Applications should be well-written, precise, and succinct and include the following:

  • Abstract and Specific Aims (500-word maximum)
  • Research Design and Methods (six pages maximum – does not include literature cited)
    • Section One - Describe the specific medical challenge or unmet need that presents an opportunity for innovation involving an engineering solution. (one page maximum)
    • Section Two - Describe in detail the engineering technology that will be developed to solve the problem. The narrative should include the rationale for its potential effectiveness, preliminary data, resources to be utilized, feasibility (over 18-month time frame), existing intellectual property (disclosures and patents filed), parameters for evaluating success, and potential for commercialization. Also summarize the competing technology and explain why the proposed technology is superior. (five pages maximum) 
  • Qualifications of the investigators (one page maximum)
  • NIH-style biographical sketch including current and pending support (four pages maximum per investigator) for each member of the submitting team. 
  • Summary of outcomes and commercial status of prior GEM projects involving any member of the submitting team.
  • Budget and Justification (total amount not to exceed $60,000) – Funds may only be used for supplies, trainee or technician salary, core lab fees, statistical support for study design, and essential equipment for prototype development. A small amount of funds may be allocated for pilot clinical studies. Note - No funds may be used for faculty salary, travel, clerical help, office supplies, books and subscriptions, publication expenses, or graduate student's tuition remissions or fees.

Applications should adhere to the following formatting specifications:

  • 11‐point Arial font
  • Single‐spaced
  • 0.5 inch margins on all sides
  • 8 ½" x 11" (i.e., standard size) paper
  • Number all pages
  • No appendices are allowed


All sections must be collated into a single document (docx or pdf) and submitted as an attachment to an e-mail to Kathleen Kennedy (

Please contact Dr. Deborah Spector ( or Kathleen Kennedy at (858) 822-0268 ( with any questions about this RFA or the application process.

The deadline for the submission of entries is 5:00 pm on Monday April 8, 2019.

A selected group of faculty from the ACTRI, IEM, and Rady School of Management will work with the PIs of the winning proposals to help establish a team and budget to accomplish the goals of the project over a 12 to 18-month period.

Application Deadlines, Notices of Awards, and Funding Cycle

Application Deadline: Monday April 8, 2019, 5:00 p.m. PT

Notice of Awards: June 1, 2019

Funding Cycle: July 1, 2019 – December 31, 2020