The BMES Engineering Research Center (ERC) was established in September 2003 with funding of approximately $17 million from the National Science Foundation to support the initial five years of a ten-year cooperative agreement. The BMES ERC brings physicians, biologists, and engineers together to develop microelectronic systems that interact with living, human tissues. The resulting technology will enable implantable/portable devices that can treat presently incurable diseases such as blindness, loss of neuromuscular control, paralysis, and the loss of cognitive function. The researchers will focus on mixed signal systems on a chip, power and data management, intelligent analog circuits, interface technology at the nano- and micro-scales to integrate microelectronic systems with neurons, and new materials designed to prevent rejection.
Although the BMES ERC is hosted at USC, it will operate in partnership with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Partnerships will also be developed with several medical device and information technology companies. As well, the BMES ERC will develop a collaborative education/outreach program with the California State University at Los Angeles, which serves a predominantly underrepresented-minority student body. Pre-college outreach will be built on the award-winning USC "STAR" program and will involve middle and high school students and their teachers. The BMES will also collaborate with the Braille Institute in Los Angeles and the Exploratorium Science Museum in San Francisco to bring information about these emerging technologies to the disabled and general public.