Two Indian-American scientists awarded prizes by National Institutes of Health


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a total of $1 million to six winners, two of whom are Indian-American, as part of the NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge for the design and development of non-invasive, handheld, digital technologies to detect and diagnose sickle cell disease (SCD), malaria, and anemia.

Bala Raja, CEO of Luminostics Inc, from San Jose, California, was awarded $200,000 through the National Institutes of Health Tehnology Accelerator Challenge 2020. Photo: LinkedIn

Bala Raja from San Jose, CA was awarded $200,000, along with his two partners Andrew Paterson and Rhoel Dinglasan. Raja is the CEO of Luminostics Inc. that builds products for rapid infectious disease self-testing, according to the NIH website.

In Raja’s experiment, saliva will be non-invasively collected and analyzed by multiplex lateral flow tests for detection of SARS-CoV-2-specific antigens, ferritin (a marker of iron deficiency), and a malaria parasite protein, PSSP17, according to NIH.

The Cornell University, N.Y. researchers’ team led by Saurabh Mehta was awarded the $100,000 prize for developing a quick, non-invasive, mobile phone-based system to detect infectious diseases, inflammation and nutritional deficiencies in saliva.

Mehta is an associate professor of global health, epidemiology and nutrition in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, in the College of Human Ecology (CHE), and the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University, New York.

According to a statement by Cornell University, for the saliva-based test, a small 3D-printed adapter is clipped to a mobile phone and synced with a mobile app. The app uses the phone’s camera to image test strips to detect malaria, iron deficiency and inflammation, with results in under 15 minutes.

Saurabh Mehta and his team from Cornell University received the $100,000 prize from NIH’s Technology Accelerator Challenge 2020. Photo:

“Technologies using salivary biomarkers could revolutionize how conditions such as malaria and iron deficiency are identified and addressed, especially in settings where access to primary health care and traditional, laboratory-based tests is limited,” Mehta is quoted saying in the Cornell press release.

Other team members in Mehta’s team are David Erickson, the SC Thomas Sze Director and Sibley College Professor in Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Julia L. Finkelstein, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and in Global Development; research associate Balaji Srinivasan; and postdoctoral associate Bryan Gannon.




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