Research Addressing State Priorities

Miami and Ohio

2019-20 Government Relations Network Report

Research Addressing State Priorities

Lei Kerr

Partnership with Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) yields latest Miami patent

A respiratory simulation device, complete with an artificial nose made from a 3D printer, is the subject of Miami University’s newest patent and a potential breakthrough in researching, diagnosing and treating breathing disorders. Lei Kerr, professor of chemical, paper and biomedical engineering, is the inventor on the patent along with co-inventors at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Kerr said the research can advance knowledge of nanomaterials whose functionality and applications are affected by the respiratory flow patterns to the brain.

Small enough to fit into a suitcase, the device mimics human breathing and helps determine the toxicity of the smallest particles that enter the nasal cavity, particularly the olfactory region. The research could provide more realistic predictions for drug screening and other potential commercial uses, Kerr said.

“We are very excited because I think this is a different technique for nanotechnology fields,” she said. “With aggressive support for this research, this device can be turned into something very useful for researchers and companies.”

Kerr has been working with researchers at Wright-Patterson for several years. Students have contributed as well. Undergraduates in a senior design capstone class helped lay the groundwork, and Kerr’s lab includes about seven graduate students.

“This could lead to better safety in occupations where aerosols and other dangerous chemicals are present, both in domestic or military applications,” Oris said.

About research at Miami

  • The latest patent is another step in Miami’s program to enhance research opportunities for students and increase externally funded research projects.
  • Miami holds about 40 patents producing a small revenue stream.
  • Counting private and government grants and contracts, overall external research funding increased 12% to $26.9 million in 2019-2020.
  • “We have a modest portfolio of patents, but the ones we have are of high quality,” said Jim Oris, former vice president of research and innovation.

COVID Research

Research to improve public health - Two Miami researchers are developing materials that can be used to prevent indirect contact transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. Rick Page and Dominik Konkolewicz received a $181,849 grant from the National Science Foundation in May 2020.

Pandemic 101

Miami’s Philip Smith, assistant professor of kinesiology and health, authored a four-part series to explain the basics of the coronavirus pandemic - just one more way Miami uses research to advance the common good and benefit Ohio.