The Michigan Engineer News Center

Lefkofsky Scholar Nagrath receives grant to develop cancer diagnostic

Chemical Engineering assistant professor, Sunitha Nagrath, Ph.D., along with Andrew Rhim, M.D., from gastroenterology, recently were named Lefkofsky Scholars.| Medium Read

Ph.D., along with Andrew Rhim, M.D., from gastroenterology, recently were named Lefkofsky Scholars and each will receive a $75,000 per year research grant for 2-3 years to develop an inexpensive blood test for early stage cancer that is available for clinical use as part of routine healthcare.

Dr. Nagrath’s lab has been developing state of the art microfluidic devices using fundamental fluidic principles and incorporating nanomaterials. According to the project summary, Dr. Nagrath has already developed microfluidic devices that “can rapidly identify CECs and cellular material called exosomes (shed by tumor cells) from the blood stream with unprecedented specificity and efficiency.”  Dr. Nagrath joined the chemical engineering faculty at Michigan in 2010.  Previously, she did post doctoral research and was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.

Senior scientists, Dr. Diane Simone, a leader in pancreatic cancer research and director of the Translational Oncology Program at North Campus Research Complex (NCRC), and nanotechnology expert, Dr. Joerg Lahann, professor of chemical engineering and the director of the Biointerfaces Program, also located at NCRC, will serve as mentors for Nagrath and Rhim. The Lefkofsky Scholar Initiative announcing the awards states that, “The two programs create a unique innovation ecosystem at the North Campus Research Complex; by encouraging creative thinking, and high-risk-and-reward research, this interdependence generates the effective approach needed to tackle the complex problems of cancer.”

EnlargeThe pseudo-colored SEM image of the captured cancer cells spiked into blood on the CTC Carpet chip. Cancer cells and WBCs were shown in red and blue respectively.
IMAGE:  The pseudo-colored SEM image of the captured cancer cells spiked into blood on the CTC Carpet chip. Cancer cells and WBCs were shown in red and blue respectively. Photo: Mina Zenali

According to Nagrath, “The influx of funds is encouraging on many levels. It provides essential resources to continue this significant high risk research that could be applied not only for pancreatic cancer but also across many solid tumors, including lung, breast and prostate. Also, it is gratifying that engineers can play significant role in a challenging battle against cancer.”

Thanks to “The Lefkofsky Scholar Initiative: A Michigan model Transforming medicine through collaboration” for information about the scholar program and to the U-M Health System article titled “U-M researchers get $1.5M grant to develop customized pancreatic cancer treatment” about the grant from the Lustgarten Foundation.

The pseudo-colored SEM image of the captured cancer cells spiked into blood on the CTC Carpet chip. Cancer cells and WBCs were shown in red and blue respectively.
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