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The GEM Challenge Phase II – Solving Clinical Problems with Engineering Solutions

Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) is a collaboration between the UC San Diego Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) and the Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM) that is facilitated by the UC San Diego Office of Research Affairs (ORA).

GEM has established a competition to identify clinical problems for which engineering solutions can be developed and implemented. The GEM challenge is composed of two phases with the overarching goal of building a collaborative ecosystem that leverages UC San Diego’s outstanding strengths in clinical care and engineering to develop and implement innovative healthcare solutions.

During Phase I of the competition, clinically active UC San Diego faculty were invited to submit a proposal identifying a specific challenge in patient care that is amenable to an innovative engineering solution. Phase I is closed, and 6 clinical proposals have been selected by the review committee to move forward to Phase II.

Phase II of the competition invites UC San Diego engineering faculty to propose solutions to these proposals with the aims of incentivizing engineers to work with clinicians to solve some of the most pressing challenges and fostering new and promising collaborations between clinicians and engineers. Phase II is now closed.


Phase II of the GEM competition is now closed.

During Phase II, UC San Diego engineering faculty are invited to propose solutions to the selected Phase I proposals. Pilot funding of $60,000 is anticipated for at least one project, which is expected to progress to a prototype within 12 to 18 months.

The Engineer must contact the Phase I Clinician-PI prior to submission of the Phase II application. This is intended to enable the Engineer to more fully understand the clinical problem, and the Clinician to provide input to the proposed engineering solution and budget.

It is possible for more than one Engineer to submit a solution to a specific problem, and Phase II will accept for review more than one proposed solution. Please note that even if a Phase I proposal has described an engineering solution and identified a specific engineer(s), we encourage you to either submit a separate Phase II application describing a different solution or contact the named engineering faculty for a possible collaboration. In all cases, you should discuss your ideas with the Clinician-PI.

Each Engineer may also submit a solution for up to two separate Phase I clinical problems, which must be submitted as separate Phase II proposals.

The Phase II proposals will be judged by a panel of experts in engineering based on the following criteria:

Significance: To what extent will the specific engineering solution address and solve the specific challenge as articulated by the clinician in Phase I?

Innovation: To what extent does the proposal involve a novel approach that brings to bear resources available at UC San Diego – expertise, infrastructure, other types of support, particularly in combination?

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 $60,000?

Investigator: How well qualified is the investigator to collaborate with the challenge-proposing clinician(s) to solve the problem? Priority will be given to new collaborations.

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

Engineering Faculty who wish to view the GEM Phase I clinical proposals must be members of the CTRI. If you are not a member of the CTRI, please click here to join.

The Phase I clinical proposal titles and principal investigators include:

Biosensors to Measure Vaginal Tissue Oxygen Permeability and Vascularization after Graft Implantation
Marianna Alperin, MD

Enabling Bone Marrow Characterization Via Ultrasound with Matched Acoustic Metamaterials for Early Bone Damage Detection in Inflammatory Arthritis
Monica Guma, MD, PhD

Sleep in the Intensive Care Unit
Robert Owens, MD

Compressed Sensing Image Acquisition and Processing for Single Photon Emission Tomography
Sebastian Obrzut, MD

Augmenting Epileptic Patient Safety with High Precision Real Time Home and In-hospital Seizure Detection
Sonya Wang, MD

Disposable Endoscope Development for ERCP [endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography] Procedures
Thomas Savides, MD

If you are interested in viewing the entire clinical proposals (listed above), please contact Kathleen Kennedy at

How to Apply for Phase II

The application is available online. You must register as an applicant. You will be sent an email notifying you of your username and password after you register.

Entries for Phase II should be submitted using the online application and provide the following:

  1. Narrative that contains a description of the engineering approach, rationale for its potential effectiveness, resources to be utilized, 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.
  3. 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. No funds may be used for faculty salary, travel, clerical help, or publications costs.

The deadline for submission of entries is 5 p.m. on April 29, 2016.

Please contact Dr. Deborah Spector; or Kathleen Kennedy at (858) 657-5143 with any questions about this RFA or the application process.

Application Deadlines, Notices of Awards, and Funding Cycle

Availability of Top-Ranking Phase I Proposals: February 9, 2016

Phase II Application Deadline: April 29, 2016, 5:00 p.m. PT

Notice of Awards: June 1, 2016

Funding Cycle: July 1, 2016–December 31, 2017

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