Law, policy, and engineering experts convene to address biotechnology and biomedicine boon


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Experts from across the United States gathered at Penn State on April 11 to address the next generation devices for biotechnology and biomedicine. It was the second event hosted under the Law, Policy, and Engineering initiative. Jointly sponsored by the College of Engineering, Penn State Law, and the School of International Affairs, the initiative invites collaboration to address the profound challenges of humankind.

This symposium, which was also sponsored by the Penn State College of Medicine and chaired by Andrew Zydney, the Bayard D. Kunkle Chair and professor of chemical engineering, brought together researchers and members of industry to discuss the potential legal ramifications, policy framework, and technical know-how required to support and guide the accelerated advancement of biodevices.

“It’s by bringing together a wide range of expertise and wisdom that we can begin to find a new path forward and most effectively serve the commonwealth and the world,” said Penn State President Eric Barron, in his welcoming remarks. He pointed to the breadth and depth of research at Penn State, which has more than $900 million in annual research expenditures. “Given the complexity of the problems our world faces, it’s clear that we need collaboration, creativity, innovation, and expertise in many areas. The Law, Policy, and Engineering initiative is one way of bringing the right people together to accomplish this goal.”

Humans have used technology interfaces for decades, with sensors and light signals. Interfacing has grown to interactions — a person can operate their home’s lights from across the world, just by asking their phone. Now, medical biodevices are growing more advanced and, with them, so are the questions surrounding the relationships people have with machines.

“Technology is a part of our lives. More and more, it’s becoming a part of us,” said Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. “Implantable cardio devices help us live longer, artificial hips and knees, and spinal implants help our exoskeleton keep pace with our ever-increasing lifespan. Rapid advances in biotechnology promise to continue to greatly enhance and lengthen our lives, while also challenging what it means to be truly human.”

Schwartz cautioned that the work is just beginning, reminding the audience that today’s commonplace technology was the stuff of science fiction just a decade ago. In another decade, it’ll be rudimentary.

“Law and policy often struggle to appropriately regulate fast-moving science and technology,” said Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. “Next generation devices for biotechnology and biomedicine pose complex technological, ethical, and legal issues and are an important example of why we need collaboration among, engineers, lawyers, and industry and public policy leaders. My hope is that today’s dialogue is just the beginning of a collaboration on these crucial issues, and I am excited about how we might build from here.”

Participants worked to identify and mitigate the roadblocks hindering efficient collaboration between the traditionally disparate groups. The day’s discussions were shaped by Greg Lucier, the chief executive officer of Corza Health, Inc., who gave the morning keynote. A panel discussion on facilitating the development of next generation devices featured Jonathan Spadt, the chief executive officer and president of RatnerPrestia; Subha Maruvada, an ultrasound engineer at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA; and Steve Carpenter, the senior vice president of the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania.

After a networking poster session, participants broke into brainstorming sessions to discuss the particular challenges they face in developing biodevices and the laws and policies surrounding them. The session was led by Mary Frecker, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, and David Han, associate professor and vice chair for education, Department of Surgery, Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute, Penn State College of Medicine. The day concluded with the afternoon keynote address by Dan O’Connor, the president, director, and chief executive officer of OncoSec Medical, Inc.

“We brought together experts from across our disciplines to explore how biodevices could be the answer to the most fundamental challenges every person faces: the continuation of life, at the highest quality of life,” Schwartz said. “Today, we began the work of preparing to understand how law and policy will influence how we streamline our progress to enhance our lives, while still protecting human integrity.”


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Ashley J. WennersHerron

“It’s by bringing together a wide range of expertise and wisdom that we can begin to find a new path forward and most effectively serve the commonwealth and the world,”
Eric Barron, Penn State President



The Law, Policy, and Engineering (LPE) initiative is an interdisciplinary academic and research initiative between Penn State's College of Engineering, Penn State Law, and Penn State's School of International Affairs. The initiative will provide a transformative educational experience for students by actively integrating components of all three disciplines into the curriculum to prepare students for the competitive, interdisciplinary, global workplaces of the future. 

Law, Policy, and Engineering Initiative

The Pennsylvania State University

Engineering Design and Innovation Building

University Park, PA 16802