Dr. Curtis Cripe, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of NTL Group, Inc. in Scottsdale. Before that, he created and ran The Crossroads Institute, where clinical specialists in seven states utilized established patented neurodevelopment approaches to assist patients overcome problems like anxiety and addiction or simply to improve their intellect and cognitive abilities.
Dr. Cripe: Bioengineering is a broad term that can have many meanings depending on its application area. Bioengineers could be developing technologies for biotech companies, building devices for diagnosis or treatment at hospitals/clinics/research centers, or designing personal health coaching apps for smartphones that are created with non-intrusive sensors that measure biological data without having to come into contact with the individual (the smartphone user).
The future of bioengineering has the potential to go in many directions, but one is likely to focus on predictive diagnostics and personalized interventions for a wide range of diseases. For example, there are already diagnostic tests that use blood samples to measure three different biomarkers for cardiac risk or colon cancer, DNA analysis can be used to pinpoint specific genetic variants associated with a disease, and a plethora of brain imaging techniques can tell us whether someone has ADHD or Alzheimer’s. But how helpful are these types of measurements if there is no accompanying therapeutic option that addresses the cause?
This type of approach will require very creative thinking from bioengineers that want to help doctors and their patients get better results from what I call “one and done” diagnostics. These technologies will rely on a deeper understanding of how the brain functions, which is why more experts in this area were included in the BRAIN Initiative from President Barack Obama. We know there are many parts to the brain’s puzzle, but we need more pieces before we can see the big picture.
In any discipline, it is essential to ask questions like, “What problems exist?” and “What gaps exist?” That way, you can focus your efforts on filling those needs with innovative solutions that meet real human needs. This approach helps you develop technologies that provide immediate value because they solve previously unmet challenges or opportunities for improving quality of life—and it makes your engineering project very attractive to future investors, clients, or customers.
The National Science Foundation has a slogan that I think about every day: “Ideas worth spreading.” That’s really what bioengineering is all about—figuring out ways to solve today’s problems by innovating the technology of tomorrow. It’s exciting to be working in this field because there are so many potential career opportunities, and each one can positively impact people’s lives.
Dr. Cripe concluded by saying that the future possibilities of bioengineering are “limitless.”
Asked whether there was anything else he would like to add, Dr. Cripe replied by saying that students in this area must pursue their education with passion and perseverance so they can fulfill their career dreams. Those who have a clear vision of what opportunities exist will be able to gain the proper training and skills needed before the demands of the marketplace outpace them.