Aug 19 2009
The University of Southern California today announced that two faculty members from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have been recognized by Technology Review magazine as some of the world's top innovators under the age of 35. Andrea Armani, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and Ellis Meng, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, will both appear on the prestigious 2009 TR35 list.
Selected from more than 300 nominees by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, the TR35 is an elite group of accomplished young innovators who exemplify the spirit of innovation. Their work -- spanning medicine, computing, communications, nanotechnology, and more -- is changing our world.
"One member of your school's faculty named to this list is a feather in your cap," said Yannis Yortsos, the Viterbi School's dean. "Two in a single year is a cause for celebration. We are immensely proud of this fantastic recognition for Andrea and Ellis."
"The TR35 honors young innovators for accomplishments that are poised to have a dramatic impact on the world as we know it," said Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of Technology Review magazine. "We celebrate their success and look forward to their continued advancement of technology in their respective fields."
Andrea Armani's research interests are developing novel optical devices and integrated platforms for studying biological and chemical systems. While the importance of recording events at the single molecule level is well-established, there are very few methods which are able to perform these difficult experiments without using high-sensitivity cameras.
Previous research efforts by Armani led to the development of an ultra-sensitive biosensor capable of detecting single molecules. In addition to its application to improving our understanding of biological processes and the monitoring of chemical pollutants, the sensor platform may also present an ultra-sensitive technology for security monitoring.
Currently, the Armani lab is pursuing research for the development of two new optical devices with performance characteristics optimized for biological environments, i.e. water or buffered solutions. Using these devices, multiple single molecule measurements can be performed simultaneously, which will allow the interaction strength between protein pairs, such as antibody-antigen or an enzyme-substrate pair, to be studied at the single molecule level. They can also be applied to investigations into cell dynamics and regulation. This type of data will contribute to improvements in biological imaging and methods for drug discovery and delivery.
In recognition of the significance of her research, Prof. Armani regularly gives seminars at international scientific conferences and government agencies, both in the United States and in Europe. She is the recipient of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award to develop an interferometric optical biosensor for water monitoring using CMOS compatible methods. Recently, she also received an instrumentation development grant from the National Science Foundation to design and build a biodetection platform. Armani is the co-author of two awarded patents and three pending patents.
Ellis Meng's work leverages micro- and nano-technologies to develop drug delivery platforms that achieve three main goals: benchtop tools compatible with both cells and tissues for rapid scientific and drug discovery, implants for targeted release of therapeutics in disease models, and translational medical device technologies for the treatment of human conditions.
The ability to deliver or extract minuscule volumes of fluid with spatiotemporal precision is an extremely powerful technology that enables advanced biomedical therapies. These technologies advance beyond conventional needles for drug injection or Petri-dish based biomedical research.
This approach may lead to effective treatments of central nervous system injuries, epilepsy, cancer, and other diseases that result in devastating lifelong physical disabilities in millions of Americans. Many of these conditions are presently incurable and drug therapy is the preferred treatment method. Meng's research team is engaged in several clinical collaborations to address these conditions, and is even looking at ways to better understand drug addiction. Next generation closed-loop drug delivery platforms that include integrated sensors that can detect when drug is needed, trigger the delivery, and continually monitor the effectiveness of the treatment are also being developed.
In the past few years, through numerous referenced and peer-reviewed conference publications, she has become a national leader in this field. She is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Early Career Award to manipulate fluids as a medium for interfacing to cells and tissues. She recently received the Wallace H. Coulter Early Career Translational Research Award to develop an implantable drug delivery pump for target delivery in the treatment of incurable ocular disease. Meng is the co-author of three awarded patents, four provisional patents, and five pending patents.
"Both Meng and Armani exemplify what it means to be a USC innovator. Each has pushed the boundaries in their disciplines, questioned assumptions, and made creative leaps that will no doubt make dramatic impact on our changing world," said Krisztina "Z" Holly, USC Vice Provost for Innovation and Executive Director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation.