Biodesign research surges ahead

Biodesign research surges ahead

August 6, 2018

August 6, 2018

Highlights of Biodesign's research achievements in the past year reinforce the institute's commitment to the highest standards of scientific excellence and reiterate its devotion to pursuing solutions in human and planetary health. 

Research achievements and accolades in the past year include:

Qiang “Shawn” Chen led his research team to develop the world’s first plant-based Zika vaccine in response to the Zika outbreak of 2015. 

Alex Green demonstrated how living cells can be induced to carry out computations using circuits composed of RNA.

In pursuit of a better understanding of photosynthesis’s origins, a research group led by Raimund Fromme captured, with near-atomic clarity, a picture of the Heliobacterium modesticaldum’s core membrane protein structure.

A team of researches including Paul Coleman developed a blood test that could detect Alzheimer’s disease before the onset of symptoms for those genetically at risk of the disease.

ASU researchers, led by Stephen Albert Johnston, rose to a challenge posed by the U.S. Department of Defense: to make at least 1000 doses to any unknown pathogen in a week.

In a 10-week treatment program, ASU researchers led by James Adams, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and Dae-Wook Kang demonstrated the long-term benefits of fecal microbial transplants for those on the autism spectrum.

In a first-of-its-kind study, Cheryl Nickerson and her colleagues exhibited that the spaceflight environment can produce alterations in gene expression in human blood, which may leave space travelers more susceptible to various diseases. 

Bruce Rittmann was named a National Academy of Inventors Fellow and received the Jankowski Legacy Award, one of the highest distinctions for Fulton Schools faculty members, for his work with naturally occurring microbes and their benefit to the environment and human health.

In a method relying on the detection of extracellular vesicles, Tony Hu and his team spearheaded a method to identify pancreatic cancer early in its development. 

As part of an international team of scientists, ASU researchers, including Petra Fromme, used high-intensity X-ray pulses to view the crystalline protein envelope of an insect virus in what is considered to be a near-atom-scale resolution.

An ASU team led by Nongjian Tao developed the first controllable DNA switch to regulate the flow of electricity within a single, atomic-sized molecule. 

In a ceremony that brings together the nation’s top research advocates, Leland Hartwell was presented with the Research!America’s Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award for his work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

In collaboration with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Cheryl Nickerson led efforts to develop more realistic predictive intestinal tissue models to study Salmonella.

Alex Green received the New Investigator Award from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, which will fund his work on a test kit for Valley fever, as well as a Sloan Research Fellowship for the development of a cost-effective Zika virus test kit and other career achievements.

Three ASU professors, Rolf Halden, Leah Gerber, and Rimjhim Aggarawal, were recognized as “changemakers” in the “top 200” entries by the MacArthur Foundation’s “100 & Change” grant competition.

ASU professors Klaus Lackner and Bruce Rittmann teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy to produce clean, renewable energy via microalgae that can recycle carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Tony Hu’s research team received a $2.7M NIH award to further the potential impact of its diagnostic test, which has been characterized as the fastest and most accurate blood test for TB.

Postdoctoral researcher Jiseon Yang was just one of five scientists chosen from across the country for a fellowship award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation under a joint call with NASA.

Susanne Neur and her team received a National Science Foundation grant to further ASU’s research on the abilities of phytoplankton to reduce the effect of carbon dioxide on the ocean’s chemical composition.

In collaboration with Karen Anderson, Associate Professor Jennifer Blain Christen continued efforts to develop a disposable, point-of-care biosensor for rapid diagnosis and health monitoring.

Diego Mastroeni, the lead author of a study in partnership with TGen, helped discover that mutations of the ANK1 gene, a gene that has been associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, originate in microglia.

Sofia Esquivel-Elizondo, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and Anca Delgado demonstrated that microbes can be harnessed to clean up recalcitrant pollutants and generate chemicals of widespread benefit to industry.

Thanks to a grant from the National Institute of Health, Tony Hu’s lab partnered with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to improve its Ebola diagnostic test.

A research team composed of TGen and ASU-Banner Health neuroscientist Salvatore Oddo found the first evidence that the activation of the necroptosis pathway, which causes neuronal loss, is closely linked to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Food and Drug Administration prohibited the sale of personal-care products containing prominent antimicrobials, including triclosan and triclocarban — prized for their antimicrobial properties – as a direct result of Rolf Halden’s research, which started in 2002.

The National Institutes of Health awarded a five-year, $2.1 million grant to Alexander Green to pursue innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research.

The ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center (NDRC) received a portion of a new $5 million grant, with three of the six researchers named in the new award belonging to the NDRC, including Eric Reiman, a world-renowned leader in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Joshua LaBaer and Karen Anderson were selected as Breast Cancer Research Foundation grantees, among 275 researchers across 15 countries and six continents.

Tony Hu and postdoctoral researcher Dali Sun developed a cost-effective version of dark-field microscopy in a simple mobile technology to be used for health-care diagnostics.

The Dorothy Foundation donated $25,000 to a project led by Stephen Johnston, which is aimed at detecting Stage 1 pancreatic cancer with immunosignature technology.

Stephen Johnston and Deirdre R. Meldrum were named Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

ASU ranked ninth out of 719 universities in the U.S. for research expenditures for institutions of higher education without a medical school, up one spot from last year, in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development rankings.  

Executive Director Joshua LaBaer led a delegation to visit key Chinese partners to further explore new research possibilities.

The Open Philanthropy Project awarded a multi-year grant of $6,421,402 to Stephen Albert Johnston to support the largest interventional canine clinical trial ever conducted, a trial assesses the effectiveness of a novel vaccine in preventing cancer in dogs.

Athena Aktipis and Carlo Maley, a pair of evolutionary biologists at the Biodesign Institute, hosted the 2017 International Society for Evolution, Ecology and Cancer conference.

Mitch Magee, a Biodesign researcher studying tuberculosis, served as the keynote speaker at the launch of ASU’s inaugural Laboratory Safety Innovation Award.

GenomeWeb featured one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s projects, a project led by Joshua LaBaer that is aimed at developing biodosimetry tests

A study conducted by Biodesign researchers, including lead author Diego Mastroeni, found that neuronal cells can be protected from the beta amyloid protein’s degradation of mitochondria responsible for the early development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Using a sophisticated microarray platform invented by Joshua LaBaer, Biodesign researchers demonstrated that ibrutinib, a treatment approved for the treatment of leukemia, could thwart the sequence of events leading to progression and growth of solid tumors

An international team of scientists, including Biodesign’s Michael Lynch, sequenced the first Amazon molly genome to better understand the nature of the fish’s asexual reproduction.

Hao Yan, along with other researchers at the Biodesign Institute and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology, programmed nanorobots to shrink tumors by cutting off their blood supply.

Three advisers from across the U.S., including Biodesign’s Gary Moore, were recognized by the ARCS Foundation for their work as doctoral advisers.   

A research group including Betram Jacobs, Kathryn Sykes, and Debra Hansen explored new options for vaccines to treat African Swine Fever Virus by identifying and ranking disease antigens.

A team of researchers headed by Carlo Maley published findings focused on the cellular driving forces of cancer with an emphasis on Barrett’s Esophagus.

Researchers, alongside Nongjian Tao, designed, created and tested a DNA circuit capable of splitting and combining current.

Debra Hansen, along with her colleagues, outlined a new strategy for producing antibodies against membrane proteins using a gene gun. 

Gemneo Bioscience, a genomics technology company led by Joseph Blattman that seeks to revolutionize diagnosis and treatment for cancer and other diseases, was named as one of six Arizona bioscience startup firms that will participate in the Flinn Foundation’s 2018 Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program.

Professors Bruce Rittmann and Mark van Loosdrecht were named the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize Laureates for revolutionizing water and wastewater treatment.

Tony Hu co-edited The Enzymes: Peptidomics of Cancer-Derived Enzyme Products, a book focused on exploring peptides and their use in diagnosing cancer.

Athena Aktipis spoke at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture on how using an evolutionary approach to understanding cancer can change how we treat the disease. 

In collaboration with TGen and UA, Biodesign’s Travis Dunckley, helped develop new therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Tempe City Council voted to provide $35,000 from the Tempe Innovation Fund to implement an anonymized monitoring system, which will reveal the presence of health-threatening substances in the city’s wastewater. ASU agreed to match these funds in a project that is headed by Rolf Halden.

ASU was awarded more than $8.5 million over five years from the National Cancer Institute to establish the Arizona Cancer and Evolution Center with Carlo Maley as the head.

Ben Readhead, among other researchers at Biodesign, uncovered another culprit on the path to developing Alzheimer’s disease: viruses in the brain.

ASU researcher Ferran Garcia-Pichel and his colleagues published findings suggesting that the microorganisms inhabiting biological crusts played a role in Earth’s early nitrogen cycle and in fertilizing the planet’s early oceans.

World-renowned evolutionary biologist Michael Lynch was appointed as the new director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution.

A DNA walker measuring a few billionths of a meter in size was conceived and constructed by Hao Yan. Dashing across a prepared track in a cartwheeling motion, the innovative nanostructure set a new speed record for such devices.



Written by: Gabby Hirneise