Emory-Georgia Tech
partnership fuels an engine of innovation

Emory University Project Manager Felicia Bianchi discusses the partnership between Georgia Tech and Emory for the Library Service Center.
By many measures, it’s an uncommon collaboration. But it’s also a smart one.

Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have long established their own niches within Atlanta’s educational landscape. Emory is a world-class private liberal arts research university with noted strengths in health care. Georgia Tech has equally solid credentials as a technical institute and public research university widely recognized for its engineering sciences.

Together, they’ve created the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, one of the few such joint departments in the country and a vibrant educational partnership that is pushing boundaries and contributing to breakthroughs actively shaping the future of Georgia, the nation, and the world.

Call it a success story forged by complementary core strengths.

For nearly 30 years, Emory medical researchers and Georgia Tech engineers have worked together to support a program that has produced hundreds of graduates who are unlocking a trove of medical advances and innovations through fearless problem solving.

Last fall, the biomedical undergraduate program was ranked No. 1 in the nation by US News & World Report; the graduate program is currently tied with Stanford at No. 3. Through unique programs, undergraduate students are able to engage actively in lab research while graduate students find hands-on opportunities to develop innovative, marketable advances in healing.

Clinical expertise from the Emory School of Medicine and engineering expertise from Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering have combined to propel an array of interdisciplinary research projects in areas that include predictive health, regenerative engineering and medicine, nursing, ophthalmology, gerontology, public health, information technology, law, chemistry, and psychology.

lab student

Success propels research momentum

As the partnership has grown stronger, so have both institutions’ ability to attract top faculty and research talents. With external support by the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), the schools also have recruited GRA Eminent Scholars and leveraged GRA support to attract joint federal funding in infectious diseases, vaccines, nanotechnology, cancer, cardiology, and pediatrics.

With success has come momentum. Today, the biomedical program is among more than a dozen joint centers and initiatives that engage both universities with research ranging from translational science, immune-engineering, and nanobiology to predictive health, regenerative engineering, and malaria studies.

It’s a relationship that has created opportunities for unusual collaborations that address challenges that lie at the intersection of engineering and medicine.

Here is a sample of the projects researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech have collaborated on in the last year:

'Cluster-bombing' cancer cells

Researchers have devised a triple-stage 'cluster-bombing' system for delivering the chemotherapy drug cisplatin via tiny nanoparticles designed to break up when they reach a tumor.

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Alzheimer’s advances

Studies show the abnormal foldings of proteins related to neurogenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease may help explain how life may emerge from a chemical system.

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Lifestyle intervention in cardio care

Research shows that a personalized, goal-directed lifestyle intervention delivered by a health partner significantly improved the cardiovascular health of participants during a two-year period.

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First rolling, DNA-based motor

Graduate students created the first rolling, DNA motor — the biological equivalent of inventing the wheel for the field of DNA machines — which earned entry into the 2016 Collegiate Inventors Competition in Washington, D.C.

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Building biotech drugs through evolution

A joint research team has demonstrated how ancestral sequence reconstruction can guide engineering of the blood-clotting protein known as factor VIII, which is deficient in the inherited disorder hemophilia A — science that can be applied to gene therapy, thereby tapping evolution to improve biotech drugs.

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New data-collection technologies

Emory psychologist Kim Wallen will lead a team that has received a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop new technology to enhance behavioral observation and data-collection technologies for rhesus monkeys — information that could be shared in labs worldwide.

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shelves of shared assets in the library

Support for joint collections

In 2016, both universities took their longstanding partnership a step further with the opening of a new state-of-the-art Library Service Center (LSC), which will house a shared collection amassing millions of books and other materials.

Located on 4.6 acres stretching across the back of Emory’s Briarcliff Property, the climate-controlled 55,000-square-foot facility was jointly developed to create a seamless, unified collection of materials available to faculty, staff, and students from both campuses.

The LSC eventually will hold about 95 percent of Georgia Tech’s collections and much more of Emory’s collections, with items available for delivery to the main campuses of both universities. The project brings key content from two major research universities under one roof, expanding access to a broad range of resources and freeing up campus spaces; with complementary strengths, only about 17 percent of the collections overlap.