The Focused Ultrasound Foundation Designates Virginia Tech as a Center of Excellence


Charlottesville, VA—The Focused Ultrasound Foundation has designated Virginia Tech as a Focused Ultrasound Center of Excellence. Virginia Tech is the sixth Center of Excellence in the US and the twelfth worldwide.

Established in 2009, the Foundation’s Center of Excellence Program recognizes luminary sites for their merit in translational and clinical research in focused ultrasound, training, and patient care. The Centers serve as hubs for collaboration, bringing together academia, industry, and the Foundation to champion therapeutic ultrasound technology in innovative ways.

“Virginia Tech possesses significant strengths in the focused ultrasound field, and it is an honor to recognize them as a Center of Excellence,” said Neal F. Kassell, MD, Founder and Chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. “With distinguished experts across the colleges of engineering, science, veterinary medicine, and medicine, the university’s premier biomedical research institute, and a notable history of significant publications in leading journals, Virginia Tech is driving the future of focused ultrasound into exciting new territory.”

Virginia Tech’s focused ultrasound program spans departments, disciplines, and geography (Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Washington DC) with the potential to impact human and animal lives in areas of critical unmet need such as neurological disorders and hard-to-treat cancers.

Key institutions and departments involved in focused ultrasound research and treatment include the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC), the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Cancer Care and Research Center, the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the College of Engineering, the Department of Internal Medicine in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and a collaboration with Children’s National Hospital’s Brain Tumor Institute and its Center for Cancer and Immunology Research. Additionally, Virginia Tech’s strength in technology commercialization is demonstrated by more than 10 ongoing industry collaborations as well as multiple biotechnology spinoff companies from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

“This selection by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation will have an important impact on the university’s growing health sciences research enterprise,” said Michael Friedlander, PhD, Virginia Tech vice president for Health Sciences and Technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. “The center of excellence designation will further enable researchers across Virginia Tech to focus on applications of focused ultrasound in the treatment of brain and behavioral disorders such as addiction and substance abuse, chronic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, and for human and animal cancer research.”

Virginia Tech is unique in its ability to perform research across the translational spectrum from pet patients to humans through the One Health approach to research, which recognizes the dynamic interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health, and the collection of veterinary data to advance human medicine.

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center promote interdisciplinary collaborations among medical, veterinary, public health, and other professionals to advance groundbreaking and lifesaving research. This emphasis on understanding and treating diseases that affect both veterinary and human patients puts Virginia Tech in an exceptional position to rapidly discover and implement new focused ultrasound treatments that could save lives.

“Tumors in dogs and cats are very similar to tumors that occur in people,” said Joanne Tuohy, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of surgical oncology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “We are very much like our pets in so many ways. We share our home environments, and we have the same exposures that can potentially be associated with cancer development, which is very different than a controlled environment in a laboratory. As we provide health care, the companion animals are a clinically relevant model to inform us as we develop focused ultrasound devices. By helping our pets, we can also help people at the same time.”

This designation also represents a stronger partnership between Virginia Tech and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.

“The Foundation funded my first research grant as a faculty member, helped us to establish our growing focused ultrasound veterinary program, and has been a key partner in numerous other important initiatives for our histotripsy research program during my first six years at Virginia Tech, said Eli Vlaisavljevich, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech. “By working together in a more coordinated fashion, we will have even more success in establishing a world-leading focused ultrasound program with essential core facilities that enable impact on a global scale through our mission of advancing focused ultrasound research, development, and clinical adoption.”

With the current and future financial support of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, funding agencies, and donors, the new Center of Excellence will draw on the expertise of over 35 principal investigators devoted to focused ultrasound research and work in collaboration with industrial partners and other Centers of Excellence around the world to expand the range of novel ultrasound therapies for the benefit of patients.

“Individually, we can’t advance quickly enough for patients facing cancer or ailments where focused ultrasound can really make a difference,” said Jennifer Munson, PhD, a biomedical engineer who works to find new ways to treat brain tumors in children. “But together, we are transforming our approach to treating these tumors and fast-tracking their delivery to patients in need.”

To learn more about the Foundation’s Center of Excellence program, please visit our website.

About Focused Ultrasound
Focused ultrasound uses ultrasound energy guided by real-time imaging to treat tissue deep in the body without incisions or radiation. There are currently 34 indications in various stages of development in the UK and more than 170 worldwide, including Alzheimer’s disease and tumors of the brain, liver, breast, and pancreas. Worldwide, 32 have regulatory approval, and in the UK, 13 have achieved CE marking.

About the Focused Ultrasound Foundation
Based in Charlottesville, VA, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation was created to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide by accelerating the development of focused ultrasound, a rapidly evolving, noninvasive technology. The Foundation works to clear the path to global adoption in the shortest time possible by organizing and funding research, fostering collaboration, and building awareness among patients and professionals. Since its establishment in 2006, the Foundation has become the largest nongovernmental funding source for focused ultrasound research.