Most of those in the medical field these days have their hands full trying to prevent and treat a variety of serious conditions, including Covid-19.
The Jacobs Institute figured into some of the advances that help with that work – but its leaders also have their sights on health horizons.
They’ve had to adjust to limitations brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It's had a huge impact on us bringing, say for example, 20 doctors in from all over the country to go through a week's worth of training. It's just impossible to manage that, so a lot of that activity is being done virtually,” said William J. Maggio, CEO of the institute, which opened in 2012 on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to accelerate advances in vascular medicine through greater collaboration between doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and industry.
How will the novel coronavirus reshape medicine in the future? What opportunities will it provide for innovation? How can we prevent or address the next pandemic?
These are among the questions Maggio explores in a new online series, “Journey into the Future of Medicine,” as well as a live webinar the institute will host next week entitled “Covid Unmasked: The Real Impact on the Future of Medicine.”
Maggio so far has interviewed four regional health leaders for the monthly series. Topics have included Covid-19 in a changing health landscape, the impact of the virus on women’s health, predicting disease with big data and artificial intelligence and aging in healthier ways. Each episode lasts a half-hour or less and can be viewed free here.
Three international health experts and several others who work on the Medical Campus figure into "Covid Unmasked," presented with help from the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Maggio will introduce the live webinar, which runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17; the public is welcome to watch free but must register beforehand here.
“It will talk about Covid in a way that many people haven't heard before,” said Allison Kupferman, director for communications and outreach with the institute.
Covid-19 Global Health: Pandemic Comparisons and the Vaccine Race, presented by J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of its Global Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
Covid-19 Animal Origin: Transmission to Humans and Prevention, presented by Steven Galster, chair of the International Management Committee with Freeland International, a nonprofit with offices on four continents committed to the elimination of wildlife and human trafficking.
Industry Impact: How can Entrepreneurship Survive and Thrive? Presented by Amar Sawhney, founder, CEO and chair of Instylla and Premand, which specializes in creating medical devices and approaches to embolization therapy in interventional radiology and oncology. The chemical engineer has launched several medical companies, as well as innovations that helped with more than 100 current or pending patents.
The Virus Explained: What Makes it so Different and Can We Treat It? Presented by Dr. Ken Snyder, assistant professor of neurosurgery, radiology and neurology in the UB medical school and vice president of physician quality at Kaleida Health. He practices with UB Neurosurgery.
Moderators will be Dr. Nick Hopkins, founder and chief scientific officer of the Jacobs Institute; Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, institute chief medical officer; and Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg, chair of the Department of Surgery in the UB medical school.
Maggio talked more about the impact of the pandemic on the Jacobs Institute. Below are excerpts.
Q: How has the pandemic impacted the institute and its priorities?
A: The Jacobs Institute was founded on the principle of forcing collisions amongst some of the greatest minds in the neuro and cardiovascular space ... to stimulate innovative thought. Fostering those types of collisions because people can't travel, they can't come to New York State, from that perspective has been very impactful. It's also had a huge impact on our training business because a lot of our training is face to face. Our visitations are way down.
Q: Do you have international travelers who come in as well as those from across the U.S.?
A: All the time. All of the international travel stopped as of the middle of January, because the pandemic was impacting Asia and Europe. It's curtailed our travel as well for some of our clinic clinicians. Dr. Siddiqui and Dr. Hopkins travel around the world.
Q: How has the pandemic affected work life at the institute?
A: Probably over 80% of our scheduled visits for the year have been canceled. As far as work life is concerned, we've been very, very careful to maintain all of our employees. No one has been furloughed. Fifty percent of the staff is on site and 50% of the staff is working from home, and it's a very organized process by which we cycle our staff. Since we've gone through the different phases that the state has put us through, as long as people meet our visitation protocols, and meet the state mandates, they can come in and collaborate with our researchers. Some of the best startups and best medical device companies in the world come to Buffalo to help foster their innovative process.
Q: What important work has taken place regardless of the pandemic?
A: We continue to provide very important consultant and engineering services to all of our clients virtually. We still do the hard work on our simulators and in our labs here in Buffalo. And we're also advancing three very exciting startups going through the product development phase in the i2R, or Idea to Reality Center. We're looking at devices to help simplify the application of cardiovascular technologies. And we're looking to streamline processes for treating neurovascular disease like stroke.
Q: What important work has taken place because of the pandemic?
A: We're not a diagnostic company, we're not a therapeutic company, but companies need to continue to innovate. Everybody has felt the financial impacts of the pandemic and it's created opportunities for us. Quite frankly, companies are more inclined to want to outsource services that they otherwise may have done in-house. So while we haven't had a direct impact on all the great work that's happening from a research perspective around vaccines and around therapies, indirectly we are helping companies in our categories – the neurovascular and the cardiovascular space – continue to advance the great discoveries that they're working on by them allowing us to be more involved with their development process.
Q: How can medical devices and artificial intelligence help with Covid testing and treatment?
A: Some inflammatory issues that were identified with Covid-19 involved young people having strokes. Some of the medical devices that we use to treat those people, to remove clots, were made with technology that had been developed and perfected right here in Buffalo. So we're impacting it from that perspective. From an AI perspective, I think that plays more to advancing ways that we're developing vaccines. Instead of the more traditional form of reconstituting the virus and killing that virus and then injecting you with the (dead) virus, a recombinant (genetically engineered) approach to vaccine development is what we'll probably see in the coming weeks and months here stateside.
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