Two ENG PhD Students Among 10 CIMIT Healthcare Prize Finalists


Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 11.20.58 AMThe Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) has selected PhD students Nga Ho (BME) and Jacob Trueb (ME) as two of 10 finalists for its 2013 Student Technology Prize for Primary Care, which provides initial funding to engineering graduate student teams across the country advancing innovative ideas for technologies to improve healthcare quality and efficiency at the front lines of medicine.

Selected by a distinguished panel of technologists and primary-care clinicians, each finalist team receives $10,000 to help refine its projects and research proposals for the competition’s final round. The top three proposals will be announced in June. First prize will be $150,000, with second and third place receiving $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

Nga Ho’s team seeks to build a rapid, highly sensitive, point-of-care, low-cost virus diagnostic system that will detect HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C simultaneously in resource-limited settings. The platform could be deployed at any medical center, enabling patients to take tests for three different diseases at the same time as soon as possible, lowering transmission rates and saving lives through early diagnosis.

“The award is a great encouragement for us, and shows that our idea is clinically relevant and valuable,” said Ho, who is pursuing this research in collaboration with BME postdoctoral fellows Andy Fan and Sharon Wong and BME seniors Rebecca Lacroix and Michelle Wong in theKlapperich Laboratory for Diagnostics and Global Healthcare Technologies, under the supervision of Associate Professor Catherine Klapperich (BME, MSE) and Research Assistant Professor Mario Cabodi(BME).

Jacob Trueb is developing a noninvasive, microfluidic chip cartridge that performs point-of-care allergy testing. The diagnostic test that he and his team—PhD candidates Margo Monroe (BME), Alexander Reddington (ECE) and Derin Sevenler (BME), and master’s student Steve Scherr (ME)—are advancing detects immunological biomarkers for allergy response directly from a blood sample using a simple and inexpensive optical signal amplification platform called IRIS, which has been developed in Professor Selim Ünlü’s (ECE, MSE) lab over the past few years.

“The ability to perform a liquid biopsy allergen test will increase quality of care for allergy sufferers who are incompatible with the invasive and uncomfortable current gold standard of skin scratch testing,” said Trueb.

Administered by CIMIT, a consortium of Boston-area teaching hospitals and universities, and Massachusetts General Hospital, this year’s competition was one of the strongest in the five-year history of the Prize, drawing entries from 65 outstanding teams of graduate and undergraduate students in 30 of the top U.S. engineering programs, including MIT, Johns Hopkins University and University of California, Berkeley.