Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Low-tech, minimally invasive localized brain drug delivery system

Technology #cu14052

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Elisa Konofagou
Managed By
Satish Rao

Because of the blood brain barrier (BBB), current pharmacological treatments of neurological diseases are designed to target the entire brain indiscriminately, often resulting in severe side effects and damage to otherwise healthy regions. Conventional highly focused ultrasound technologies use an array of multiple ultrasound transducers to disrupt the BBB in targeted areas, yet require large and costly setup and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based targeting and verification capabilities. This technology eliminates the need for expensive and sophisticated magnetic resonance (MR) systems by using a combination of certain ultrasound techniques, hardware, and software to enable minimally invasive brain drug delivery in a low-tech environment.

A portable, low cost, and predictable method enables safe and reliable BBB disruption without the need for MRI-based targeting or verification.

With only a single ultrasound transduced, this technology utilizes an intermediate frequency of ultrasound and is able to target small areas with an average error of only 2mm; both advancements minimize inertial cavitation and unintended tissue damage associated with alternative techniques, while increasing targeting accuracy. Furthermore, a hardware and software program was developed in tandem enabling specific areas to be targeted without the need for an MRI-based verification. These advancements were coupled with a capacity to verify that the ultrasound cavitation was indeed successful without any additional equipment, allowing the system to gain speed, portability, and reproducibility over conventional methods.

This technology has been verified using in-silico simulations, in vitro measurements, and in vivo studies of macaque monkeys.

Lead Inventor:

Elisa Konofagou, Ph.D.


  • Safe and reliable method to open the BBB in specific, shallow, or deep-seated brain regions
  • Spatially specific neuroscience research in a laboratory setting
  • May be adapted to improve accessibility and spatial resolution of ultrasound-hemostasis, -lithotripsy, and -assisted thrombolysis.
  • May be adapted for non-invasive research of structures


  • Utilizes intermediate frequencies to minimize damage to non-target regions and ultrasound aberrations
  • MRI-independent targeting and verification
  • More compact than conventional technology allowing portability and increasing patient base to non-specialized clinical settings (e.g., outpatient clinics; community hospitals).
  • Utilizes a single transducer setup, reducing the cost and targeting uncertainty

Patent information:

Patent Pending (WO/2011/153268

Tech Ventures Reference: IR CU14052

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