Top honors for USC’s Wallace Coulter Foundation Award went to a team of collaborators from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

The $100,000 award, which will fund the design and development of a photo-acoustic imaging device, will be shared by Jacques Van Dam, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (clinical scholar), division of gastroenterology and liver disease at the Keck School; and Qifa Zhou, PhD, research professor, and Thomas Cummins and doctoral candidates Teng Ma at the Medical Ultrasonic Transducer Resource at USC Viterbi.

The new device uses optical coherence tomography and high-resolution ultrasound, which Van Dam said represents an important advance in medical imaging. One of the first uses for the device will be for the early detection of cholangiocarcinoma, or cancer of the bile duct.

“This cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose at an early stage,” said Van Dam, who, together with John Lipham, MD, will direct Keck Medical Center’s new Digestive Health Institute. Other important applications of the device will include diagnosing conditions such as Barrett’s esophagus and malignant melanoma.

Twenty-two teams competed for the nationally known award, which is new to USC since 2011 and the establishment of the USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program. The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation’s mission is to fund translational research in biomedical engineering with the goal of accelerating the introduction of new technologies into patient care.