Yeo Receives NIH Trailblazer Award and R01 Grant
Nov 01, 2021 — Atlanta, GA
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced that Associate Professor W. Hong Yeo from Georgia Tech's George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering has been awarded a Trailblazer Award for New and Early Stage Investigators. The award is for a project titled “Development of Nanomembrane Electronics and Machine-Learning Algorithms for Quantitative Screening of Dysphagia Therapeutics” and comes with $645,000 in R21 funding over three years.
Dysphagia is a difficulty or discomfort in swallowing that afflicts almost 15 million Americans, particularly individuals 50-60 years or older. Currently, there is no available treatment for dysphagia. Although ongoing research focuses on the development of new drugs, none of the existing systems provides a quantitative, continuous evaluation of drug efficacy with animal models or human subjects. Yeo and his lab aim to develop a novel, nanomembrane electronic system that offers a continuous, quantitative assessment of swallowing activities in a non-invasive way with animal models, which will help develop new dysphagia drugs.
“We need better drugs for treating this disease,” said Yeo. “When you develop a drug, you need tools to test the efficacy, and that qualitative tool doesn’t exist for dysphagia. That’s why we proposed this non-invasive real-time continuous monitoring system for swallowing.”
Yeo’s system is based on his previously developed low-cost printable wireless sensors and electronics, which can be affixed to a user with minimal or no discomfort.
The Trailblazer Award is an opportunity for NIH-defined New and Early Stage Investigators to pursue research programs of high interest to the NIBIB that integrate engineering and the physical sciences with the life and/or biomedical sciences. A Trailblazer project may be exploratory, developmental, proof of concept, or high risk-high impact, and may be technology design-directed, discovery-driven, or hypothesis-driven. Importantly, applicants must propose research approaches for which there are minimal or no preliminary data.
In addition to the award, Yeo also recently received an NIH R01 grant ($1.7 million) for a project titled “Deep Phenotyping in Blepharospasm,” which will be conducted with another PI, Dr. Hyder Jinnah, a professor in the Emory University School of Medicine. They will use a miniaturized wearable electronic system to wirelessly quantify different aspects of blepharospasm, such as increased blinking, eye spasms, and apraxia of eyelid opening.