Changfeng Tai, PhD, Receives $10.5 Million DARPA Award

December 9, 2020

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Changfeng Tai, PhD, associate professor of Urology and Pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a $10.5 million award to develop a medical device for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. 

This five-year award will allow Dr. Tai and his team to develop a fully implantable stimulator that would be wirelessly controlled and chargeable. The implant would restore three visceral functions—bladder, bowel, and sexual—for people with spinal cord injuries. The restoration of these three functions is a top priority for functional recovery in patients with spinal cord injuries and dramatically improves quality of life. 

The device will act similarly to how a pacemaker helps the heart pump blood but is inserted under the skin in the lower back. 

“This award is significant in the progress of this device,” said Dr. Tai. “The hope is that this will one day ease the burden that people with disabilities related to spinal cord injuries face every day, including military veterans.”

DARPA is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. The award is part of DARPA’s BG+ program.