Indian American student from Harvard Neil Davey invited for TEDx talk in Paris

Neil Davey. Photo courtesy of Harvard University.

NEW YORK: An Indian American student from Harvard Neil Davey has been invited to give a TEDx in Paris, France, after fame spread of an invention of his which diagnoses malaria.

Davey and another Indian American student Miraj Shah spent months working with two undergraduate students in Peru, Marco Malaga and Fabricio Espinoza, to design and develop a hand-held point-of-care diagnostic for malaria, said reports.

The disease in 2014 accounted for 438,000 deaths globally.

The microfluidic device, named UniDx (short for Universal Diagnostics), which was field tested in the Peruvian Amazon where costly lab equipment and expertise are lacking, involves a simple, but sensitive process.

DNA from a small amount of blood is isolated and subsequently injected into the device, which encapsulates the DNA into individual microfluidic drops; subsequently, if present in an encapsulated drop, malaria-specific DNA will be targeted and amplified, thereby causing that drop to fluoresce.

Based on the findings and research so far, TEDx invited Dave for a talk in Paris on May 20, a media release said.

Dave and his team will after that head to India to transfer the technology of UniDx for malaria and potentially other pathogenic blood samples, with the hope that his device can truly become the universal diagnostic of infectious diseases.

The WHEELS Global Foundation this week announced to fund Dave and his team $15,000 for this purpose which is being done in collaboration with Prof. Debjani Paul of the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.

“An infectious disease-free world can only exist if our medical approach moves from curative to preventative, and the first step to making that happen is early diagnosis. UniDx can accomplish that with just a few drops of blood,” Dave said, in a statement.

Last year, Harvard University reported that Davey developed a technique that pushes the possibility of non-invasive cancer diagnosis one step closer to reality.

Davey also won a silver medal in the undergraduate section of the National Inventors Hall of Fame’s Collegiate Inventors Competition for his research project, “Early Cancer Diagnosis by the Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells using Drop-based Microfluidics.”

His technique involves injecting a tiny amount of blood into a microfluidic device to encapsulate single cells from the blood stream in individual microfluidic drops. Once the cells have been encapsulated, Davey uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a common technique in molecular biology, to target and amplify fragments of cancer DNA within the drops.



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