Dr. Hen-Wei Huang

The Role of Robotics in Translational Medicine


Dr. Hen-Wei Huang




Robotics can play many vital roles in human healthcare. Besides surgery, there is plenty of room that medical robotics could contribute to translational and clinical medicine, such as medical screening and triage, automated drug delivery and blood withdrawal, and remote diagnosis and telemedicine. The most promising application is automated closed-loop therapy, which has shown great clinical potential in diabetes treatment, brain stimulation treatment, anesthesia, and chemotherapies. A closed-loop therapeutic system shares many similarities to a robotic system, which usually consists of 1) sensors for continuous monitoring drugs’ pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, 2) a controller for real-time processing of the feedback from the sensors to determine the next optimal drug doses, and 3) a controlled release device to dynamically adjust drug delivery. Here, I will give three examples that I've investigated in preclinical and clinical studies throughout the past four years. The first example is using robotics to automate the laborious procedures in insulin therapy to enhance diabetic patients’ medication adherence. The second example is how a mobile robotic camera system could contribute to medical screening and triage as well as continuous monitoring of ambulatory patients in a hospital setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The third example is how a robotic-assisted closed-loop therapeutic system can prevent death from a medical emergency without human intervention.



Dr. Hen-Wei Huang is an instructor, faculty of medicine at Harvard Medical School, a visiting scientist at MIT Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research, and an Associate Scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He received his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from National Taiwan University, in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He received his Ph.D. in robotics from ETH Zurich in 2018. His doctoral research focused on engineering soft reconfigurable micromachines that can emulate the locomotion and shape adaption to the local environments of their natural counterparts like Trypanosoma brucei and Caenorhabditis elegans. Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., he was an R&D engineer in a startup company developing a pocket-size cuffless blood pressure monitor from 2013 to 2014. He joined the MIT Langer Lab to conduct his postdoctoral research in 2018 where he was focusing on introducing robotics into controlled drug delivery to enable automated closed-loop therapies. He is also co-founder of AIO Therapeutics since 2021, focusing on using robotics to enhance patients' adherence to their medication. He is also the recipient of the best paper award from the Journal of Controlled Release in 2023.

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