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Rowan engineering prof lands prestigious Science Center grant

mohammad                     Will use $100,000 on biomedical surgical device

February 16, 2017


Patients with broken legs soon may undergo more successful surgeries thanks to a robot.

That’s the goal of Dr. Mohammad Abedin-Nasab, a research assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering at Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey.

Abedin-Nasab has developed a robotic device that can assist surgeons in treating patients with broken femurs and other bones in a manner that will enable them to heal a little faster with fewer complications.

University City Science Center awards grant

The University City Science Center is helping him reach that goal.

The Philadelphia-based organization recently awarded him one of three QED Program grants of $100,000 to develop proof of concept for “Robossis™: Orthopedic Surgical Robot.” More than 60 researchers applied for funding; the Science Center awarded the other grants to professors from the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University. The QED Program helps to design projects that are milestone-driven and focused on answering key questions that will help move technologies from the lab into the marketplace, according to the Science Center. The Science Center provides mentors for the researchers and works with university Technology Transfer Offices to help bring products to market.

“Americans suffer more than 350,000 femur fractures a year that require surgery,” said Abedin-Nasab, who is director of the Surgical Robotics Lab in Rowan’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

He noted current surgical protocols require a surgeon to manually align the bones in a femur fracture using a trial-and-error approach, an approach that leads to malalignment of bone fragments 18 percent of the time.

Device helps surgeons

Robossis will assist surgeons with pre-operative planning and actual surgery.

The metal device includes a circular opening to accommodate a broken leg. Using imaging software connected to an X-ray machine and integrated into the robot so that it can provide a 3D image of the leg, Robossis will enable surgeons to get a clear picture of the break and visualize the optimum path of the robot to follow as it exerts pressure to align the broken pieces of bone. Surgeons then can use their preferred technique to perform the procedure.

“We’re not going to replace the surgeon; we’re just going to aid the surgeon,” said the professor, who has been working on Robossis for three years.

He will use the Science Center funding and matching $100,000 from Rowan to continue work on his prototype and assess its functionality and production feasibility. Abedin-Nasab has one international patent  and three pending U.S. patents on Robossis, named for “robot” and “ossis,” Latin for “bone.”

“Robossis will benefit surgeons and hospitals, as well as patients,” said Abedin-Nasab, who earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree in mechanical engineering in his native Iran. “The robot will enable physicians to minimize the time and money spent on the procedures by decreasing surgery times and avoiding repeated operations.”

Improves life for patients

For patients, the added benefits include less exposure to radiation (going from about 80 X-rays to as few as two), less pain and faster recovery, decreased time in the operating room, fewer and shorter hospital stays, a lower risk of infection and less blood loss.

According to Abedin-Nasab, it takes a tremendous amount of force to align broken femur bones, and that increases the danger of soft tissue damage. Complicated cases can lead to greater blood loss, secondary infections and possible longer hospital stays.

“Unfortunately, the potential problems of this trial-and-error approach are widely accepted as limitations of current medical practice, due to the lack of a better alternative,” Abedin-Nasab said.

In the near future, he and his team will develop the software needed to interface between X-ray equipment and the robot and will conduct experiments on artificial bones.

This is the first time the Science Center has awarded QED funding to a Rowan professor. Working with Abedin-Nasab on the project are biomedical engineering undergraduate students Daniel Infusino, Matthew Goldner, Nicholas Silva and Caroline Smith.

About the University City Science Center

Located in the heart of uCity Square, the Science Center is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that catalyzes and connects innovation to entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. For 50+ years, the Science Center has supported startups, research, and economic development in the life sciences, healthcare, physical sciences and emerging technology sectors. As a result, graduate firms and current residents of the Science Center’s incubator support one out of every 100 jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region and drive $13 billion in economic activity in the region annually. By providing resources and programming for any stage of a business’s lifecycle, the Science Center helps scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators take their concepts from idea to IPO – and beyond. For more information about the Science Center, go to

About QED

QED is a proof-of-concept program that provides business development support for academic researchers developing early-stage life science and healthcare IT technologies.  The key goal is to reduce the business risk in these early-stage projects, increasing their attractiveness to follow-on investments.  Each of the recent 11 selected finalists were paired with several business partners to further develop their proof of concept and to develop a financial plan moving forward.  Of the 11 finalists, Abedin-Nasab was then selected as one of three awardees who will each receive a $100,000 grant from QED. Rowan will match that $100,000 for him to carry out the proof-of-concept plan and to further validate his research.

Pfizer acquires gene therapy firm Bamboo Therapeutics, a Rowan portfolio company, for $150 million


September 13, 2016


Children born with Canavan disease – a fatal childhood neurological condition that usually causes death by age 10 – may one day lead a longer and healthier life thanks to Dr. Paola Leone, of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Internationally, she is recognized as a pioneer of gene therapy directed to the central nervous system.

At RowanSOM, where she is a professor and director of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center in the Department of Cell Biology, she is known as a tireless researcher committed to discovering treatments for conditions such as Canavan disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.

A first

Most notably, she and her team have administered to the brain, for the first time, a genetically modified virus that expressed the healthy gene that is otherwise mutated in Canavan disease, a process that may change – and save – lives.

That has an even greater chance than ever now that Pfizer Inc., the New York City-headquartered corporation that is one of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies, is part of the picture and one day may produce therapeutics based on her work.


In July 2015, Rowan University entered into an asset transfer agreement with Bamboo Therapeutics, Inc. to commercialize a novel gene therapy developed by Leone and her team in the Cell and Gene Therapy Center in Stratford, New Jersey, for the treatment of Canavan disease, one of the most common and complex degenerative cerebral diseases in infants.

Bamboo Therapeutics, a clinical-stage company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that develops gene therapies for serious neurological genetic diseases, acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize Rowan University’s proposed treatment for Canavan disease.

The Cell and Gene Therapy Center was the first to demonstrate the long-term safety and benefit of a virus-based gene therapy in a clinical setting, and the study represented the first gene therapy study for a clinical neurological application ever approved by the National Institutes of Health as an Investigational New Drug application.

Acquired by Pfizer

Recently, Pfizer acquired Bamboo Therapeutics for $150 million and potential milestone payments in a deal to expand the drug giant’s presence in the experimental field.

According to Pfizer, it “will take over the company’s treatments in development, which haven’t yet been tested in people, as well as Bamboo’s manufacturing facility.”

The corporation noted, “Gene therapy – a growing and experimental technology (whose) backers hope can be effective after only one treatment – treats diseases caused by a genetic mutation by giving the patient a working copy of a missing or dysfunctional gene. No gene therapy drugs have been approved in the U.S., though many are being tested.”

“Validation of potential”

“The acquisition of Bamboo Therapeutics by Pfizer is a validation of the potential of gene therapy to provide viable therapeutic strategies for currently intractable diseases. The contribution of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center at RowanSOM to this partnership is the result of many years of research effort, institutional commitment and patient advocacy for this therapeutic platform,” Leone said. “It is especially pleasing to see recognition of the value of translational research for Canavan disease in contributing to the bigger picture so tirelessly and passionately promoted by affected patients and their families during the last 20 years.”

Bamboo will be eligible for additional payments of as much as $495 million if the company’s therapies clear various testing and regulatory benchmarks, Pfizer noted.

First sale of equity

Leone’s intellectual property was one of seven licenses Pfizer acquired; the others are owned by the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Rowan, UNC, and the University of Pennsylvania are widely recognized university leaders in gene therapy. This is the first time Rowan has sold equity in a firm.

“We were able to strategically identify a company that was favorably positioned for this kind of acquisition eventually by a large pharmaceutical company,” said Mina Zion, director of Technology Commercialization at Rowan. “We cannot imagine a better commercialization path than for our technology to pass through the hands of Pfizer.”

Rowan is sharing in the commercialization income and also received funding to promote research discovery and development focusing on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. The University also will receive royalties on the sale of treatments that arise from the work done by Leone, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Padua in Italy.

Major step for Rowan

“This is the first intellectual property by a Rowan University faculty member to be commercialized by a major pharmaceutical company,” said Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam, vice president for Research.

Dr. Ali Houshmand, Rowan’s president, said, “This is a major step for Rowan University as we continue to grow our research and innovation initiatives. Most importantly, Dr. Leone’s work and affiliation with Bamboo – and Pfizer’s recent purchase – have the potential to make a huge medical impact that’s going to change people’s lives.”



Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering holds grand opening for new building

State-of-the-art facility enables growth in enrollment, programming

January 26, 2017

Call it a necessity.

Engineering Hall, the new building that Rowan University officially opened on Jan. 26, will enable the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering to increase its enrollment to 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students by 2023; expand its programs; and  grow its collaborations with business, industry and government offices.


The nationally recognized College has been in high demand since it opened in 1996, and that demand has only grown stronger recently. In the last five years, Rowan Engineering virtually doubled its enrollment to 1,488, still turning away good students who have to go elsewhere. In almost five years, it has increased its hallmark Engineering Clinics 52 percent to 134 during fall semester 2016, with multidisciplinary teams serving in many cases as the de facto R&D arm of local, national and international companies and agencies. Between FY2011 and FY2016, the College has increased its outside funding from $2.8 million to $8.9 million. And in the last few years, the College added a Ph.D. program and a Biomedical Engineering Department and opened the Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems, among other initiatives.

Revitalizing engineering education

During the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Virginia Rowan Smith, a member of the Rowan University Board of Trustees and daughter of the late Henry Rowan, referenced her father’s charge, “What this country needs is not more engineers, but more great engineers.”

Smith’s father and mother, Betty Rowan, made the start of the College possible with a $100 million gift to then-Glassboro State College in 1992, a gift that came with the request to start an engineering school that revitalized engineering education.

The University did just that.

The College’s hallmark Engineering Clinics, for instance, were innovative from the start. While engineering colleges historically started students on hands-on work in their junior year, Rowan Engineering did so during the first semester of freshman year, creating multi-disciplinary teams that mimicked the professional world. During the College’s two decades, faculty and students have garnered numerous honors and held positions in national and international organizations. U.S. News & World Report, among other entities, has honored the College; in its latest rankings, the publication placed the College 22nd among more than 200 master’s-level programs.

“Educating the students here to be great engineers is just what we are doing,” Smith said, noting the new facility enables the College to build on its strong history and further its status as an international leader in engineering education. “(My father) wanted our program to be exceptional, and it truly is.”

“My father . . . would have been so pleased to see this building today,” she said.

Contributing to the region

Rowan University president Dr. Ali Houshmand spoke of the College’s part in Rowan’s role as a state research institution focused on practical research that leads to products, jobs and businesses in the region.

Noting that collaborations among engineering, science and business disciplines can find a home in Engineering Hall, the president said, “This building opens the gate for us to define who we are as a research institution.”

The State of New Jersey funded $46 million of the $70.6 million, 88,000-square-foot structure through the 2012 New Jersey Building Our Future Bond Act. The State awarded Rowan with the second-highest amount of funding — $117 million — through that bond act, which was the first to support construction at New Jersey higher education institutions in two decades.

A packed house turned out for the grand opening, including State and local officials, board members, administrators, professors and staff, students, alumni, partners and friends. The event came just eight days after the University held a similar ceremony for the William G. Rohrer College of Business’ new home on Rt. 322, a $63.2 million, 98,300-square-foot facility that is the first academic building dedicated solely to business education.

Dr. Anthony Lowman, the dean of the College, started the speeches, giving a nod to Mr. Rowan, legislators, the audience and professors, among others.

“This is just amazing to have this turnout,” he said. “It really speaks to . . . the amazing job we’ve done.”

Making a difference

Lowman said that the College now has as many students as it does graduates, and he assured the legislators present that if they wanted to provide for a third Engineering building he was confident Rowan could jump enrollment to 4,000 students.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney gave a nod to the University and the College, acknowledging that Rowan Engineering is educating students that large corporations such as Lockheed Martin need. “Rowan University is on the map, and it’s so exciting for the economy of the region,” Sweeney said. “We can provide (businesses) with the people they need to help them grow.”

With the College’s original Rowan Hall, to which it is joined by a third-floor pedestrian bridge, Engineering Hall is a gateway to the University’s campus off Bowe Boulevard in Glassboro.

State of the art

The facility includes four classrooms, 19 research and teaching labs and 14 collaboration rooms. Among the highlights of the building are first-floor project labs that open to the outdoors, making extended space available for work on a variety of projects, including automotive engineering, solar arrays and drone technologies; a sustainability wing, where students can focus on such fields as alternative energy; designated lab space for specific departments; designated space for Freshman and Sophomore Engineering Clinics; biomedical engineering labs; space for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) outreach initiatives; and water and hydrology, cell culture, and wireless communication labs. All Rowan engineering students have access to Engineering Hall, home to the Experiential Engineering Education Department (ExEEd), which oversees the Freshman and Sophomore Clinics for all majors. Engineering Hall also houses the Biomedical and the Electrical & Computer Engineering departments, with additional lab space for Civil & Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. The building includes a two-story dining/study/gathering space as well as outdoor space for students to study and meet.

Jacob Culleny, a junior electrical and computer engineering major from Brigantine, joined Jillian Sharkey, a senior mechanical engineering major from Williamstown, and administrators and officials in cutting the ribbon for the building.

Noted Culleny before the ceremony, “This is a true testament to how strong the program is because when I was a freshman this was just a gravel lot, and to be able to watch it become all of this is just awesome . . . These new classrooms positively affect our learning environment. The building is really student focused, with white boards in the hallway so you can just stop and work through a problem right there. Everything is team based, and this increased space gives us the ability to work more effectively as a team.”

About the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering

The College offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs, with bachelor’s and/or graduate degrees in Biomedical, Chemical, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer and Mechanical Engineering, and Engineering Management. In its 2017 rankings, U.S. News & World Report placed the College 22nd out of more than 200 schools nationwide where the highest degree offered is a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

South Jersey industrialist and philanthropist Henry Rowan and his wife Betty made the creation of the College possible when they donated $100 million to then-Glassboro State College in 1992 with the directive to revitalize engineering education. The College opened its doors to 100 students in 1996 and graduated its first class in 2000. With a focus on minds-on, hands-on learning, the College counts among its hallmarks its eight semesters of Engineering Clinics.

Rowan will retrofit the original College of Engineering building, Rowan Hall, in the near future.

Ceremony marks official dedication of new home for Rohrer College of Business



January 18, 2017

As a capacity crowd of students, faculty, alumni, business leaders and supporters gathered on Jan. 18 to celebrate the opening of the new home of the William G. Rohrer College of Business (RCB), Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand took the lectern and shared the reason he joined the University in 2006.

“I said I was looking for a challenge,” Houshmand said. “But what I was really looking for was a dream.”

Houshmand’s dream when he was appointed president was that Rowan would emerge as a major institution of higher learning and serve as an economic engine for South Jersey

Through the dedication of the Rowan community and through support from the State of New Jersey and through public-private partnerships, that dream is becoming a reality, he said.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in Business Hall, the $63.2 million, 98,300-square-foot building on Route 322, Houshmand said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building.

Public support

The first academic building dedicated to business education, Business Hall was funded in part by nearly $40 million from the Building Our Future Bond Act. Passed by voters in 2012, the referendum was the first bond act to support construction at New Jersey higher education institutions in two decades. Rowan received $117 million–the second largest amount of funding in New Jersey.

The Building Our Future Bond Act, coupled with the 2012 Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which designated Rowan as a comprehensive research institution and gave the institution its second medical school in Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, have been absolute game changers for Rowan and, ultimately, South Jersey, Houshmand said.

The new building will allow RCB to double enrollment and to establish programs that will educate undergraduate and graduate business students who are laser-focused on turning ideas into viable solutions and on creating thriving businesses that will ultimately provide jobs and help our economy grow, the president noted.

Jobs are what South Jersey needs, State Senate President Steve Sweeney said at the ceremony.

“The reason southern New Jersey has a weaker economy than northern New Jersey is we don’t have the number of higher education degrees,” Sweeney said, adding that the region needs a more educated workforce to bring jobs to South Jersey, a role that Rowan is addressing.

“We’re expanding capacity for people to go to school in this region,” he continued. “We need a more educated work force to bring the jobs that we want here. This university is the future of our economic development in southern New Jersey. Rowan University is the lynchpin—the key for economic development in the region and the state.

“Rowan continues to lead the way when it comes to providing a state-of-the-art environment for students and research.”

The Building Our Future Bond Act also provided $46 million for the $71 million, three-story, 88,000-square-foot addition to Rowan’s College of Engineering. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for that building is set for Thursday, Jan. 26, at 1:30 p.m.

About Business Hall

Business Hall will allow Rowan to double enrollment to meet demand in the business school and expand programming. The building includes 14 classrooms, seven conference rooms, 10 specialty spaces, 15 administrative offices and 70 faculty offices.

Designed with RCB’s unique approach to business education in mind–one that is built upon collaboration, small class sizes, project-based learning, problem solving, teamwork and entrepreneurship–the building has common areas to encourage collaboration among students and business leaders. It also lounge areas and collaboration rooms.

The building serves as the home for RCB’s trading room with its ticker tracking the stock market in real time; for the Center for Professional Development, a valuable resource for students dedicated to providing career preparation skills designed to make them stand out in the job market; and for Hatch House, a business accelerator dedicated to supporting student entrepreneurism in all majors across campus.

In the fall, the new Center for Responsible Leadership will be housed in Business Hall. According to RCB Dean Sue Lehrman, the center will be focused on supporting “research and teaching that emphasizes the importance of the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—with a focus on corporate social responsibility.”

Designed by KSS Architects of Princeton in partnership with Goody Clancy Architects of Boston, the L-shaped building’s west end includes a public art installation. Created by Oregon-based artist Ed Carpenter, the sculpture is made from dichroic glass and refers abstractly to gate imagery since the building serves as a gateway onto campus. By day it is a bright focal point. In the evening, the sculpture glows like a lantern, serving as a welcoming beacon both to the University and to the Rohrer College of Business.

‘A first-class education’

Rowan Board of Trustees Chairman Linda Rohrer, a trustee of the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation and a member of the RCB Executive Advisory Council, Business Hall “reflects a first-class education for this College.

“I just toured this building. I’m breathless and speechless,” said Rohrer. “This building stands as a gateway to our campus. And it stands as a gateway to our future.”

The Rohrer College of Business is named for Rohrer’s father, William G. Rohrer, a distinguished businessman, community leader, government official, and philanthropist. In 2004, the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation presented the University with a $10 million gift to expand the University’s business curriculum.

Lehrman said the reviews on the new building, which opened for business on Jan. 17, the first day of the spring semester, have been overwhelmingly positive from students and faculty alike. And while faculty and students will spend the most time there, the building is not just for them, she added.

“We expect South Jersey business leaders to call this building their home as well,” Lehrman said. “We want you—those business leaders here today—on campus regularly to collaborate with students on projects and internships, to serve as mentors, to share your talents with our students and to share your big ideas for the betterment of our region.”

The building’s unique design by KSS Architects encourages collaboration, Pamela Lucas Rew, partner with KSS Architects, said.

“Designing meaningful and lasting spaces is a foundation of all KSS work. Higher education, at its core, creates opportunity and possibility. This new Rohrer College of Business building serves as the pivotal gateway to the University. It is a beacon, literally and symbolically expressing Rowan’s commitment to academic excellence and its investment in the region’s future. The spaces we have crafted nurture strong skills as well as the judgment, vision, and integrity that the leaders of the future will apply to advance society and the business profession.”

Business Hall already feels like home, said Rowan senior Celina McFarland, a marketing and management information systems major. President of the Bureau of Business Associations, the umbrella organization for student business clubs at Rowan, McFarland helped cut the ribbon for the new building.

“Business Hall provides students with a second home…a place to network, to study, to develop, to learn, and, most importantly, to grow into the entrepreneurs and business leaders we all aspire to be,” McFarland said.

Inspira land purchase promises new opportunities for Rowan medical schools

February 17, 2016

The Rowan University Board of Trustees authorized the University’s administration on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to negotiate a letter of intent that will lead to the sale of 100 acres of land to Inspira Health Network for the construction of a new medical center on Rowan’s West Campus in Harrison Township, Gloucester County, across from the South Jersey Technology Park.

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