Banu Onaral

Drexel University

Functional Optical Brain Imaging: The Journey from Concept to Commercialization

Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) based optical imaging systems have been widely used in functional brain studies as a noninvasive tool to study brain physiology and brain function by monitoring changes in the concentration of oxygenated hemoglobin (oxy-Hb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (deoxy-Hb).

Drexel University’s Optical Brain Imaging team has devetwo incarnations of the NIRS platform in the form of devices that detect hemodynamic changes under various field conditions:
— A first-in-class hand-held point-of-care screening device to identify patients most likely to suffer from brain injury such as hematoma and edema, namely Infrascanner.
— A wearable functional brain monitoring system (fNIR) to assess cognitive activity of patients in clinical settings as well as healthy subjects in natural environments.

The audience will be introduced to the physical Cognitive Neuroengineering and Quantitative Experimental Research (CONQUER) CollabOrative that hosts the core Optical Brain Imaging team and welcomes all regional, national and international partners dedicated to the research, development, integration, translation, productization, field deployment and commercialization of functional imaging techniques to monitor human brain health and activation in natural environments. A brief overview of the Coulter Translational Research Partnership program, a university-wide initiative endowed by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, that facilitated the translation of the above technologies will also be provided.

Banu Onaral is H. H. Sun Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA (PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania). She served as the founding director of the School from 1997 until 2014. In this capacity, Dr. Onaral led the translational research initiative for rapid commercialization of biomedical technologies developed at Drexel University. The program has been awarded the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Endowment in 2011.

Her academic focus both in research and teaching is centered on information engineering with special emphasis on complex systems, biomedical signal processing in ultrasound and functional optical brain imaging. She has led major research and development projects and founded several laboratories including the CONQUER (Cognitive Neuroengineering and Quantitative Experimental Research) Collaborative.

Throughout her career, she actively forged international academic and translational partnerships with universities as well as science and technoparks, primarily in China and Turkey. She currently serves as the Senior Presidential Advisor for ‘Global Innovation Partnerships’ at Drexel University and leads the development of the Global Innovation Partnership endowment created under her name.

She is the recipient of a number of academic excellence awards and honors. She is a Fellow of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Founding Fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Among her many national and international professional responsibilities, she served as President of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), the largest member-based biomedical engineering society in the world.