Professor Kirk Shung
In a third renewal of a grant first given in 1997, Kirk Shung, professor of biomedical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has been awarded a $6 million National Institutes of Health grant to continue work on high frequency ultrasonic transducer technology.
Shung, the principal investigator on the grant, is director of USC’s Ultrasonic Transducer Resource Center, a global leader in the development of high frequency ultrasound arrays used for medical diagnostic procedures.
Shung said the new grant will allow researchers to further increase the linear array frequency to achieve even better spatial resolution and make it possible to view smaller structures. A high frequency phased array also will be developed to image the heart of a small animal. This phased array will produce a beam that is steerable and have a smaller aperture or footprint, required for imaging the heart, which is enclosed by the rib cage.
Working on the grant are Jesse Yen and Qifa Zhou of biomedical engineering and E. S. Kim of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering/Electrophysics. David Kim of biomedical engineering is the manager of the laboratory where the work is taking place.
A unique aspect of the grant is that researchers are required to collaborate with investigators from other institutions, Shung said. This phase of the grant will involve collaborators from 14 other research institutions. The collaboration typically requires the expertise of the Ultrasonic Transducer Resource Center that other researchers do not have. The work is carried out either at the other institutions or at USC.
The NIH award is one of 63 technology resource grants given nationwide and the only one in ultrasound. USC Viterbi’s biomedical engineering department holds another of these grants, which has been renewed for two decades, on a project headed by David D’Argenio. Shung said the NIH now has attached sunset clauses to these grants allowing funding for a maximum of 15 years, so this will be the last renewal for his ultrasonic transducer project.
A vision statement of what would happen when the grant ended was needed for the final renewal application. Shung said that final goal of the grant is to commercialize at least two of the devices under development – a high frequency linear array ultrasound scanner and a high frequency curved linear array ultrasound scanner. “These ultrasound scanners are either already developed or near completion, and it’s just a matter of time before they are developed into products for commercialization.” he said. “David Kim and I have been working with the Alfred Mann Institute and the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation in the commercialization effort, and we think within this year a company will be formed and an effort will be launched to try to find outside investors.”
The curved linear array system is being developed for eye imaging and pediatric imaging, and Shung said researchers in his department are working with a pediatrician, Chester Koh at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, on the possible application of such an array for children.