Mechanical engineering assistant professor Yong Lin Kong has been awarded a prestigious National Institute of Health (NIH) R01 grant of over $1.37 million to develop 3D printed ingestible electronics capable of treating obesity.

Obesity affects more than 1.4 billion adults worldwide and is a significant risk factor for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. In the U.S alone, approximately 40% of adults are affected by obesity. This accounts for more than one-fifth of healthcare expenses. A weight reduction of only 5–10% can alleviate the onset of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. However, present non-operative treatment options for obesity have not decreased the prevalence of obesity.

Kong, the principal investigator of the award, will lead his team to develop a new class of wireless ingestible electronics for the treatment of obesity. The project will leverage his inventions of active electronics 3D printing (U.S. Patent 9,887,356, US CIP 11,239,422 B2), gastric resident electronics (GRE,) and the latest capabilities developed from his NIH Trailblazer award to create multifunctional ingestible electronics that can expand to generate the feeling of satiation in the stomach.

The award is a critical first step to evaluating the feasibility and safety of the proposed ingestible system to perform a broad range of multivariate longitudinal sensing, actuation, and control while residing in the dynamic gastric space. Ultimately, the award will lay the groundwork to enable an ingestible digital-based obesity treatment strategy without requiring the need for surgeries or clinical procedures.

“I am extremely grateful for NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering’s (NIBIB) generous support of this award which provides critical resources needed to establish a digital-based obesity treatment platform with an ingestible electronics system,” said Kong. “We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to develop transformative technologies that can address the long-standing unmet clinical needs in the treatment of obesity”

You can learn more about Kong’s work through the Kong Research Group website.