American University of Beirut

AUB/USJ Healthcare Innovation and Technology Stimulus awards winning researchers

​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,​

Determination, vision, and productivity in what serves humanity were at the heart of the AUB/USJ Healthcare Innovation and Technology Stimulus (HITS) Awards Ceremony that congratulated faculty principal investigators (PIs) of seven research proposals that were selected out of 34 submissions for program funding. After different stages of short-listing by different parties, the winning proposals were selected for their high potential in contributing to technological advancement and economic growth in Lebanon.

Launched over a year ago and delayed by several national and international circumstances and challenges, the program is an outcome of a partnership memorandum of understanding that was signed in 2018 by AUB and Université Saint Joseph (USJ). The program is operated in collaboration with the Lebanese Central Bank (Banque du Liban) to provide funding for applied research projects in multi-disciplinary research in healthcare and technology innovation with potential to generate intellectual property and prototypes for products that can be commercialized.  

This funding cycle awarded principal investigators at USJ and AUB, while encouraging collaborations with researchers at other universities and with healthcare technology organizations and companies in Lebanon and the world.

In a virtual ceremony chaired by the joint USJ/AUB HITS steering committee co-chairs Dr. Dolla Sarkis (vice-rectorate for research, USJ) and Dr. Zaher Dawy (associate provost, AUB), Rector Salim Daccache of USJ and AUB President Fadlo Khuri congratulated the winners and emphasized their universities' respective commitment to strong relations and research collaborations between the two institutions.

Rector Daccache emphasized the common elements that join the efforts of both universities and the challenge that lies ahead of them in continuing their mission toward excellence and service in higher education in Lebanon and the Middle East. “It is a joy for me and USJ to celebrate this common scientific venture and event, even in this dark situation in Lebanon," said Daccache. “These projects and efforts [stand as proof] of our intention to move more and more towards solid collaboration between our two historical institutions in more than one area."

The winning PIs were:
Elie Al-Chaer (AUB) and Joseph Maarrawi (USJ) who are working on ECOG, a biodegradable, low cost, alternative that offers patients with degenerative neurological disorders (diseases such as Parkinson, epilepsy, etc.) a minimally invasive, highly efficient solution without the disadvantages (cost and regular replacement) of ceramic or metallic material often used in implanted prosthesis used for treatment;

Joseph Costantine (AUB) and Dania Chelala (USJ) who developed ICTFlex, a portable creatinine dedicated instantaneous test that can be used at homes or local clinics, providing easy and immediate access to results;

Massoud Khraiche (AUB) and Marwan Ghoson (USJ) who are developing a low-cost and high sensitivity electronic chip for early cancer detection and cancer monitoring in blood. The chip will be at the heart of a rapid cancer screening point-of-care assay;

Firas Kobaissy (AUB) and Tarek Itani (USJ) who are developing an accurate and sensitive portable assay allowing for rapid clinical detection of neonatal sepsis in preterm infants, helping to reduce death in preterm infants, and lowering the cost of care;

Raya Saab (AUB) and Chantal Farra (USJ) whose project aims to develop a system to deliver a treatment targeted against the specific gene driving the childhood tumor rhabdomyosarcoma that has the potential to be more effective, and with less side effects, than current treatments;

Esper Saba (AUB) and Herve Perron from Swiss based company, GeNeuro-Innovation SAS who have identified a circulating biomarker that correlates with multiple sclerosis activity, directly impacting patient care and making treatment more precise and cost-effective;

Elie Shammas (AUB), Joseph Ghafari (AUB), and Georges Sakr (USJ) whose project extends the utility of intraoral scanners to automatically identify individual teeth within a digital impression and accurately measure the teeth movement through an orthodontic treatment plan.​

“I want to thank all the brilliant faculty of these two universities who are giving hope to this country every day," said President Khuri who considered the event a celebration of resilience, persistence, and perseverance for a bright future. "Most important is to continue to innovate and create. This is the kind of acumen that has made Lebanon famous since the 2nd millennium BC and it is only right that Lebanon's top universities today should be the drivers of specialist multidisciplinary innovation that enables entrepreneurship, even in our darkest days." 

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