Finding Needles in a Haystack: Liquid Biopsy for Nucleic Acid and Protein Molecular Biomarkers for Disease Diagnosis

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020
Brian Cunningham

Center for Advanced Study
Levis Faculty Center--Music Room (208)
919 W. Illinois, Urbana

Event Description

As clinicians seek improved methods for tailoring medical treatment to the specific needs of individual patients, research is revealing that an important reservoir of information relevant to gene expression, mutation burden, immune response, and pathogen exposure is available in the profile of biomolecules present in bodily fluids.  Because samples can be obtained noninvasively (compared to needle biopsies or medical imaging), so-called “liquid biopsies” enable frequent testing for disease onset, measuring the effects of therapy, and monitoring for disease recurrence after treatment. As liquid biopsy approaches become more routine, they also offer the promise for monitoring metrics for health/wellness, quantifying the effects of nutritional regimens, and determining the effects of exposure to a variety of environments.  Practical realization of this goal is challenging due to the extremely low concentration of relevant biomolecules within complex fluids (such as blood), and the desire to accurately quantify biomolecule concentrations that can vary over several orders of magnitude.  For widespread adoption, it is important to develop simple assay methods with inexpensive instruments that can potentially be used at the point of care.  

This talk will summarize the challenges and opportunities for liquid biopsies and efforts underway at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by faculty in the newly-formed Center for Genomic Diagnostics (CGD).  The CGD is a multidisciplinary team-science organization supported by the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and the Grainger College of Engineering that is developing technological approaches for genomic/proteomic bioinformatics, novel ultrasensitive biosensing technology platforms, and highly specific biochemistry methods.  The CGD is building teams in which engineers collaborate with chemists, biologists, and clinicians to develop new tools for life science research and for enhancing clinical practice.

Brian Cunningham

Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Associate 2018-19Cunningham