Rochester researchers pursue quick ways to detect COVID-19—and better understand it
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
University scientists are adapting existing research to develop tests to detect and improve our understanding of COVID-19. Examples include projects led by Martin Zand, senior associate dean for clinical research at the Medical Center; Benjamin Miller, a professor of dermatology and biomedical engineering; and James McGrath, a professor of biomedical engineering.
Zand is working on the finger-stick test, which uses patented technology that detects immunity to more than 50 strains of flu. The test comes in an easy-to-mail kit similar to those that test blood sugar for diabetes. “We’re hoping this could make COVID-19 vaccine trials faster and more convenient for those who volunteer for them,” says Zand.
Miller’s lab hopes to find the virus with optics at the nanoscale. The lab is developing tiny sensor chips that use coronavirus proteins to “very quickly” detect the presences of immunoglobulin G and M antibodies that humans develop within two days of exposure to the virus. “The problem right now is actually getting patient samples,” says Miller. “Meanwhile we are optimizing our assays with ‘normal’ serum samples doped with coronavirus antibodies—basically making artificial patient samples.”
McGrath is using ultrathin membranes—less than 200 nanometers thick—to determine whether individuals have been infected with COVID-19. He can apply the membranes as a sensor and as a platform for discovering pathogenic mechanisms. McGrath is eyeing an inexpensive device similar to a pregnancy test that could be used in low-resource communities around the world.
“It will likely take more than a year to develop a vaccine, so COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time,” says McGrath. “If we move quickly but deliberately, I think the device could be ready in time to help with the current pandemic.”Read More: Rochester researchers pursue quick ways to detect COVID-19—and better understand it
Two Rochester scientists earn national recognition for excellence in engineering
Saturday, April 4, 2020
Two faculty members at the University of Rochester—Benjamin Miller and Marvin Doyley—have been inducted as fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).
The institute’s College of Fellows is composed of the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers, who are employed in academia, industry, clinical practice, and government.
As a result of health concerns, AIMBE’s annual meeting and induction ceremony scheduled for March 29-30 was canceled, but Miller and Doyley were remotely inducted as part of a total of 156 fellows who make up the Class of 2020.
Marvin Doyley, professor of electrical and computer engineering with joint appointments in biomedical engineering, and imaging sciences, was selected for “outstanding contributions in developing algorithms for elastography and the application of elastography to vascular mechanics and disease.”
Doyley joined the University of Rochester in 2008. His Parametric Imaging Research Laboratory develops novel imaging methods for detecting disease more quickly and for determining how well patients are responding to therapy. Doyley’s primary research interests include cardiovascular imaging, breast cancer imaging, ultrasound beamforming, contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging, ultrasound elastography, magnetic resonance elastography, and pancreatic cancer imaging.
“It is an honor to be named an AIMBE fellow, which is due to the hard work of my research groups, past and present,” Doyley says.
Doyley was also one of 20 faculty members nationwide recently selected for the first cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy, a program aimed at helping STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to leadership roles at colleges and universities.
Benjamin Miller, the Dean’s Professor of Dermatology with joint appointments in biomedical engineering, biochemistry and biophysics, and optics, was selected for “the development and application of versatile optical biosensor platforms, including Arrayed Imaging Reflectometry and integrated photonic sensors.”
Miller, who was also recently named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), joined the Rochester faculty in 1996. He is focused on two areas of research: how molecules recognize RNA sequences; and how the optical properties of nanomaterials might aid in the development of new biosensors for biological investigations and clinical screenings. The Miller lab hopes to pave the way toward compact, inexpensive biosensors that could replace current floor-standing clinical diagnostic systems with a cell phone–sized device.
“Being named an AIMBE Fellow recognizes the hard work my students and other group members have done over the years,” Miller says, “and I hope it will spur us to continue to make new diagnostic tools for improving human health.”