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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Prestigious Grant Funds Early Disease Diagnosis Research

January 26, 2009

An engineering researcher at The University of Texas at Arlington has received a prestigious grant to develop new methods of detecting and isolating certain proteins (“biomarkers”), improving the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The proposed approach uses new ways of making silicon chips and integrating inexpensive nanofluidics to provide test results quicker than existing methods.

Samir Iqbal, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, received a multi-year, early career award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation to develop new approaches to the electronic detection of proteins. CAREER grants are the most prestigious awards by NSF, supporting the early career development activities of faculty who exemplify outstanding research, excellent teaching and innovative integration of education and research. Dr. Iqbal will receive $400,000 over a five-year period.

Dr. Iqbal proposes to use natural interactions of disease molecules in developing “Proteonic Biochips”: silicon chips that can detect specific disease biomarkers from their electronic properties. These biochips will do several self-contained functions, such as the isolation of specific, less abundant biomarkers and the electronic recognition of these biomarkers through nano-scale tubing (called nanofluidics), all on the same silicon chip. Such new methods of biomarker detection can significantly help in early cancer and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, while reducing costs and time of analysis.

The project has direct applications in other biosensor areas, such as gene expression analysis, harmful pathogen detection and whole blood analysis. The technology will transform biomolecular sensing, providing better disease intervention strategies, improved statistical confidence and real-time detection.

Using part of the grant, Dr. Iqbal will also develop a graduate course on nano-bio devices, conduct demonstrations to increase the involvement and retention of undergraduates in nano-bio research, create a one-week interactive summer camp for minority high school students, and initiate an interactive website/blog to communicate with imaginative middle and high school students and teachers.