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Press Release

Chriss Swaney

For immediate release:
September 9, 2002

Carnegie Mellon Creates Biomedical Engineering Department To Meet Demands of a Growing Biotechnology Industry

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering has created a Department of Biomedical Engineering to meet the growing needs of an emerging new biotechnology marketplace that has pumped more than $4 billion into the regional economy in 2000.

Tapping into a long-established culture of interdisciplinary education and research, the new department offers a double-major curriculum where each student must complete the requirements of a traditional engineering program plus a palette of nine biomedical engineering courses ranging from physiology and biochemistry to biomedical engineering design.

"We are the only school offering this dual-major degree in biomedical engineering," said Todd Przybycien, head of the new Biomedical Engineering Department. "We feel students need a broader toolkit to be competitive in today's job market, so our biomedical majors can opt for a double major curriculum that may include mechanical, chemical, electrical, computer, public policy, materials science, and civil and environmental engineering."

Because of the program's strong cross-pollination of engineering and biological science courses, students are exposed to new biotech research in areas of medical robotics, tissue engineering and assisted living. Already, Carnegie Mellon researchers are designing implants for holding arteries open after they have been cleansed of plaque. They are also developing therapies for regeneration of bone and cartilage and blood vessel formation.

More than 50 students will graduate in 2003 from the new department that coordinates a summer internship program giving students firsthand experience at local pharmaceutical companies, hospital research labs and biotech startups.

"This is a super program because there are so many great curriculum opportunities," said Nathan Lazur, a Carnegie Mellon student majoring in biomedical and chemical engineering. "I eventually would like to go to medical school or pursue something in the biotech arena," he said.

Lazur will join more than 170,000 professionals now employed by 1,457 biotech operations nationwide, where company revenues increased from $8 billion in 1992 to $27.6 billion last year. The Biotechnology Industry Organization also reports that the industry spent $15.6 billion on research and development in 2001.

And since the biomedical and biotech industries are some of the most research-intensive industry sectors in the world, Carnegie Mellon's new biomedical engineering department will continue to push the limits on applying engineering precepts to medical treatment and understanding basic life processes.

Mike Domach, a chemical engineering professor, is writing the first biotechnology textbook written for first-year students. And Carnegie Mellon University President Jared L. Cohon co-chairs Pittsburgh's new Life Sciences Greenhouse effort, designed to position the region as an international center in biosciences.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker pledged $100 million in technology-related economic development investment to the state. About $33 million of that investment comes to southwestern Pennsylvania to support the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, an initiative created to build on the biotechnology research at Pennsylvania's top universities.

Dennis Yablonsky, president and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, said this new department at Carnegie Mellon is an exciting development in Pittsburgh's life science cluster. "It should increase interest in careers in life sciences and make more talent available to our growing list of local companies," he said.


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