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2009 Lemelson-Caltech Winner Develops Superior, Cheaper, Faster Blood Test

Ophir Vermesh today became the first winner of the $30,000 Lemelson-Caltech Student Prize for his work in developing the Integrated Blood-Barcode Chip (IBBC), as member of a team of researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Vermesh is a graduate student in chemistry at Caltech.

The IBBC has the potential of revolutionizing blood testing procedures, cost, and efficacy throughout the world. The chip is about the size of a microscope slide. Molded atop its silicon surface is a circuit of microscopic channels through which microfluids from a blood sample pass. Once a pinprick of blood is introduced to the circuit, protein rich blood plasma is separated from the blood and pressed slightly so that it travels through the circuitry. Each panel contains a different antibody that enables it to capture different proteins in the blood, creating biomarkers for several blood proteins. The barcode is read with a laboratory scanner.

Vermesh designed and fabricated the blood separation panels in the plastics-based microfluidic device, allowing the separation of blood and the downward flow of plasma cells through the channels and antibodies, so that each antibody could attract the appropriate blood protein. His design made it possible for all proteins to be measured fast, at the same time, all on the same chip.

Vermesh first demonstrated his successful device on his own blood sample, measuring a dozen immune signaling proteins, liver toxicity proteins and cancer markers. Later the tests were conducted on 22 cancer patients, and it was found that many of their proteins were unique, suggesting that they could benefit from individually tailored treatment programs.

The way blood samples are drawn now, it takes considerably more blood than a pinprick to test for one or two proteins. It takes a minimum of 8 hours to run the test and may cost $50 or more. If the IBBC can test for up to 100 plasma proteins in 10 minutes from a pinprick of blood, each test might end up costing about 5 cents.

IBBC is currently being tested in clinical trials on patients with glioblastoma, a common and aggressive form of brain cancer.

Brilliant! Congratulations Mr. Vermesh!

Via Caltech press releases.