By: Ananya Sen
The Proof-of-Concept Program, named the Mikashi Awards, is funded by the Catherine and Don Kleinmuntz Center for Genomics in Business and Society (Kleinmuntz Center) to support IGB faculty with their innovations. The 2021 winners are Joseph Irudayaraj (CGD/EIRH/MME), a Founder Professor in Bioengineering, and Xing Wang (CGD), a Research Associate Professor of Chemistry. The awards will help them bridge the funding “gap” between government-supported innovations that result from university research and the private sector support which converts these innovations into commercial products. The funds will help transform the researchers’ discoveries and technologies into useful products and services that will benefit society.
Wang’s project will involve creating a rapid, sensitive, and cheap virus-sensing technology with DNA nanostructures. These star-shaped DNA structures can recognize and capture viral particles and emit a fluorescent signal, which can be read instantly with lab equipment. Since the sensing mechanism does not depend on the amplification of genetic material, the method circumvents the tedious process of extracting and purifying nucleic acid material from the virus. Additionally, nucleic acid tests can generate false-positive results if there are degraded viral particles in the sample, a complication that can be bypassed by the new technology. Using the award, the Wang lab will continue developing probes to detect influenza and HIV in both a home setting and at medical diagnostic centers. The tests will take less than ten minutes and will cost less than $0.50 per test.
Irudayaraj will work to treat retinal artery occlusion, a condition where the retinal arteries are blocked resulting in irreversible blindness. He will use oxygen nanobubbles to deliver the gas and thereby preserve the retinal tissues. Unfortunately, there is no standardized treatment for the condition. Irudayaraj hopes that the FDA approval could be expedited because the condition is characterized as an orphan disease—the number of cases is less than 200,000 in the USA. The funding from the awards will help the team collect data and submit an Investigational New Drug application to the FDA. They will test the commercial feasibility of the technology, work on mitigating risks for potential clients, and explore potential investors and licensing.
By: Ananya Sen