Syracuse Physicist Liviu Movileanu Receives $1.17 Million NIH Grant to Create ‘Nanobiosensors’
Research may speed up detection of cancer and other diseases
Liviu Movileanu, associate professor of physics in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $1.17 million grant award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Movileanu will use the award, which is also funded by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, to support his work with “Engineered Nanopores for Single-Molecule Stochastic Sensing.”
Movileanu and his team will design and develop nanobiosensors, which are nanomaterials used for the detection, characterization, and analysis of protein interactions. Their research will presumably lead to accelerated discoveries in fundamental and clinical molecular biomedical diagnostics, which, in turn, could improve the prognosis and detection of cancers. It may also pave the way for more accurate profiling of protein biomarkers, which are useful for the early detection of disease.
“I am grateful for the NIH, without whose support I could not engage in such cutting-edge biophysical research,” says Movileanu, who joined Syracuse’s faculty more than 10 years ago. “By creating a new generation of research tools in nanomedicine, we aim to help doctors detect cancers and other diseases more quickly and accurately as well as less expensively. This is going to happen through the detection of tiny amounts of specific proteins that are in greater concentrations under pathogenic contexts than otherwise in normal cells.”
Central to Movileanu’s work are enhanced nanopore technologies, which help him examine complex biochemical events in a quantitative manner. He says the needs for such technologies are “pressing,” if not “urgent.”
“What we do is aimed at expanding nanopore technology to that of real-time protein detection and analysis,” Movileanu explains. “It represents a critical step towards the creation of high-throughput screening devices for targeted protein sampling. This means that the same device will contain specific engineered nanopore elements for the detection of hundreds of distinct protein biomarkers, which is really a practical problem that needs to be addressed. In an ideal world, you can say that a quick blood test will provide a complete knowledge about a certain patient.”
“The Department of Physics is proud of Liviu’s continuing success and of this recognition for his research program,” says A. Alan Middleton, professor and chair of the Department of Physics. “His efforts show how fundamental research can lead to surprising new applications. The development of new nanopore devices, the result of exploratory science and innovation, is expected to directly improve medical research and diagnosis.”
Since 2012, Movileanu has served as director of the Structural Biology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics Graduate Program and is an active member of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute (SBI). He has served on National Science Foundation panels devoted to planning strategic investment of resources in the area of Biomaterials. Movileanu earned a Ph.D. and master’s degree in physics from the University of Bucharest in Romania.