Royalty Opens Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College

The latest developments in robotic surgery and personalised healthcare technology will be demonstrated for Her Majesty The Queen today when she officially opens the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. Accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen will open the Institute as part of her visit to celebrate the Centenary of Imperial’s foundation on 8 July 1907.

The royal party, which also includes Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned of Qatar, will be hosted by Director of the Institute Professor Chris Toumazou, who says, “We are delighted that The Queen will be opening the Institute. Many people have put in an enormous effort to get this initiative in place. Interdisciplinary and translational research is all about mixing the core engineering and medical ingredients to create novel technologies. I am sure The Queen will recognise the dedication and passion for this field amongst the Institute’s multidisciplinary researchers and graduate students.”

The Queen will view the Institute’s work on personalised healthcare and wireless sensors, which will allow patients to be discharged from hospital earlier than is currently possible while still receiving continuous monitoring. One potential application for this technology is monitoring the glucose levels of diabetes patients, and Professor Toumazou will invite The Queen to look down a microscope at a 500 nanometer silicon chip which can be implanted to regulate levels of insulin secreted into the blood-stream 24 hours a day. He adds, “This work has the potential to have far-reaching effects for people suffering from this kind of chronic illness. Removing the need to spend considerable and regular periods of time in hospital, while still ensuring that health is carefully monitored, will substantially improve quality of life for a large number of people.”

The Queen will see an example of how wireless monitoring technology works when Professor Toumazou’s heart activity is tracked by a tiny chip and transmitted onto a large plasma screen.

The royal party will also visit the Institute’s robotic surgery suite, where The Duke of Edinburgh will be invited to practise his operating skills on a life-like dummy. These robots give surgeons the clinical and technical capabilities of open surgery but allow them to operate through tiny incisions, making patient recovery time much faster. Professor Guang Zhong Yang, who will lead the demonstration with Professor Sir Ara Darzi, explains, “Minimal access surgery reduces the impact trauma of an operation on patients but it requires pinpoint accuracy and a very steady hand. Enabling the surgeon to operate via a robot represents the perfect marriage of human skill with technological advances in biomedical engineering.”

The royal party will be joined by Taiwanese business leader and Imperial College alumnus Winston Wong, who is a Visiting Professor in the Institute due to his major contributions to semiconductor physics. He also sponsors the College’s Chair in Biomedical Circuits, held by Professor Toumazou.

Following the opening, the Royal Party will take part in the Centenary celebration ceremony, which will include the conferring of honorary degrees on The Duke of Edinburgh, The Sheikha and Professor Wong.

About the Institute of Biomedical Engineering
The Institute of biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London draws together engineers and medical researchers and clinicians from across Imperial to transform methods of medical diagnosis and treatment. Current research includes retinal implants that will restore sight by stimulating the cells in the eye that receive visual information, and the development of tiny implantable wireless blood pressure monitors, aimed at giving patients greater freedom of movement.

About Imperial College London
Imperial College London – rated as the world’s ninth best university in the 2006 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings – is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 11,500 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

With 66 Fellows of the Royal Society among our current academic staff and distinguished past members of the College including 14 Nobel Laureates and two Fields Medallists, Imperial’s contribution to society has been immense. Inventions and innovations include the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of our research for the benefit of all continues today with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to tackle climate change and mathematical modelling to predict and control the spread of infectious diseases.

The College’s 100 years of living science will be celebrated throughout 2007 with a range of events to mark the Centenary of the signing of Imperial’s founding charter on 8 July 1907.