The Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine is comprised of a group of interdisciplinary scientists who first identify a problem, analyze the physical economy basis of the related issues and then come up with an inventive solution. 

Current projects

The center has developed chips and related technologies that could allow people to regularly monitor their health from a drop of blood. This simple and inexpensive approach is particularly designed for early detection of diseases, including cancer.

Five people in lab with golden retriever dog.

Our scientists have developed a comprehensive, microchip-based technology, called immunosignature diagnosis, which can rapidly and comprehensively measure an individual’s vaccine response, promising to take much of the initial guesswork out of predicting effective vaccines.

Our team is driven by the quest to develop disruptive technology that could make health care more effective and affordable. Despite a large percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product being tied to health care costs, Americans do not get as much value per dollar as other countries. We believe innovative diagnostic technologies have high potential for transforming medicine, especially if they could determine whether or not an individual would get sick before symptoms appear and provide early identification of microbial culprits of infections.

The effectiveness of vaccines is evaluated by looking for the presence of a particular type of antibody from the vaccine-generated immune response or by extensive and complicated sets of analyses. The power of the immunosignature is that this effectiveness can be completed in one fell swoop, by using thousands of random molecules aligned on a microscope slide, like the transistors on a computer chip.

An immunosignature for Valley fever was established using the 10,000-peptide microarray to create a smaller diagnostic array composed from relevant diagnostic peptides. It proved to have 98% accuracy. The smaller, 96-peptide diagnostic array showed less specificity in terms of identifying false negatives. It was also able to classify false negative Valley fever patients in a blinded test with 100% accuracy, easily outpacing existing immunodiffusion methods, which could only identify 28% of false negatives.

The larger 10K-peptide array is best for initial screenings, followed by subarrays with reduced complements of carefully selected peptides, used for clinical diagnosis.

Our immunosignatures technology resulted in the startup company HealthTell Inc. The company was named Startup of the Year at the 2012 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation. The company raised $4 million in funding to help commercialize a test for lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.

Cancer disrupts lives, killing more than seven million people worldwide each year. It is a leading cause of death in the United States with half a million deaths each year.

The center has discovered a new source of antigens for vaccines against cancer. Based on this discovery, we are developing therapeutic vaccines for treatment of any cancer and a prophylactic vaccine to prevent any cancer. The prophylactic vaccine is already in a clinical trial in dogs.

The most successful medical intervention in history was the introduction of vaccines. To date, such an approach for cancer was limited by the unique nature of each individual’s cancer. We believe we may have found a link between proteins produced by various cancers that will make a cancer vaccine possible.

It’s been well-established that cancers create foreign proteins that the immune system can recognize.  The first cancer target we are exploring is breast cancer. The idea is to demonstrate that, if we could preimmunize an individual with a collection of proteins that effectively represent any foreign protein that a breast tumor would produce, the immune system would arm itself against breast cancer. If the platform technology proves successful, it could be applied to other cancers.

The Biodesign Institute and the Mayo Clinic Arizona are collaborating on the exploration of this research frontier. This epic endeavor brings the informatics, genomics, proteomics and immunology fields together to eradicate cancer.

With success in cancer vaccine therapy, the technology can be used to produce a near-universal, prophylactic cancer vaccine that will make cancer a disease of the past.

Synbody therapeutics and anti-infectives: The center has invented synbodies, chemically synthesized, antibody-like chemicals that bind to any target of choice. We have demonstrated that they are particularly good as anti-infectives and for targeting difficult therapeutic targets


Our formula for transformative inventions requires refined capabilities in

  • Peptide chemistry
  • Arrays
  • Vaccine technologies

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