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IBME Director Elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering

Professor Constantin Coussios is the Director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford and a co-founder of OrganOx, OxSonics and OrthoSon. He has made two distinct outstanding personal contributions to biomedical engineering in the UK, in the fields of organ preservation for transplantation and ultrasound-mediated drug delivery for cancer therapy, spanning the academic, commercial and clinical arenas.
IBME Director Elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering

Since 1997, Prof. Coussios has led all engineering aspects of the development of the world’s first normothermic liver perfusion device for improved organ preservation prior to transplantation, from co-founding OrganOx Ltd in 2008 to gaining regulatory approval, achieving fist sales and completing a successful 220-patient clinical trial demonstrating the superiority of machine perfusion over conventional cold storage (Nature 2018).

First recognized during the 2013 IET Innovation Awards for ‘Best Healthcare Technology’, ‘Best Intelligent System’ and ‘Best Emerging Technology Design’, the ‘OrganOx metra’ device enables fully automated preservation of organs in a functioning state for up to 24 hours, twice as long as conventional cold storage.

Organox metra

The data automatically sensed and collected during preservation provides functional organ assessment before transplantation.  The randomized trial demonstrated that use of the device enables a 50% decrease in organ discard rate, a 50% increase in preservation time and yet results in a 50% decrease in post-transplant graft injury (Nature 2018).

In early 2019, the OrganOx metra received a positive recommendation by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and is currently used in all 7 UK liver transplant centres, as well as in 10 other countries across 4 continents, to maximize organ utilization. The OrganOx metra was selected as one of four finalists for the 50th Anniversary MacRobert award by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Prof. Coussios’ second major contribution centres around the use of ultrasound and acoustic cavitation for therapy. Typically, less than 3% of systemically administered cancer drugs reach the target tumour. Rather than rely on concentration-driven diffusion alone, he identified that bubbles cavitating during ultrasound excitation act as highly effective local micropumps that convect the drug throughout the tumour.

Initially supported by an EPSRC Challenging Engineering award, his research group developed, over a decade, a biocompatible nanoparticle that potentiates cavitation at modest acoustic pressures (Small 2015), and invented a technique known as Passive Acoustic Mapping (IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 2010) to enable real-time cavitation monitoring  within the body. These discoveries underpin the SonoTran platform of Oxford University spin-out OxSonics Therapeutics, which is translating cavitation-enhanced oncological drug delivery into clinical practice. In pre-clinical models, this approach enables a 50-fold increase in delivery and a 10,000-fold increase in therapeutic activity of biologics (Myers et al., Mol Therapy 2016), as well as significant enhancements in the delivery and efficacy of checkpoint-inhibitor antibodies for immuno-oncology.

Ultrasound

In 2015, supported by an EPSRC programme grant, Professor Coussios launched the Oxford Centre for Drug Delivery Devices (www.drugdelivery.org), to drive adoption of engineering drug delivery approaches by the pharmaceutical industry. This effort resulted in a successful first-in-man trial of ultrasound-triggered targeted drug delivery in patients with liver tumours, which demonstrated that use of acoustic waves results in a four-fold enhancement of the intratumoural drug concentration, eliciting a response in tumour types that do not typically respond to chemotherapy (Lancet Oncology 2018).

In 2016, he co-founded OrthoSon Ltd, to commercialize a novel ultrasound-based technique developed within the IBME for the minimally invasive replacement and removal of the intervertebral disc.  He received the 2017 Silver Medal of the Royal Academy of Engineering for his contributions to the invention and translation of novel medical devices and therapeutic interventions into clinical practice.