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article imagePioneering scientist scoops Lemelson-MIT Prize

By Tim Sandle     Sep 13, 2014 in Science
Sangeeta Bhatia, creator of miniature medical technologies, has won the Lemelson-MIT Prize. Bhatia is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a professor at MIT, where she directs the Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies.
The biomedical engineer behind the human microliver and a urine test for cancer detection, Sangeeta Bhatia, has received the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for mid-career inventors. For her research, Bhatia pioneered biomedical microelectromechanical systems, or Bio-MEMS. This provided an effective means to study liver cells - which do not survive long outside of the human body - and to develop an effective test for cancer detection. Many of Bhatia’s inventions are aimed at simplifying medical diagnostics in developing countries, where cancer is a growing problem.
Announcing the award, Lemelson Foundation chair Dorothy Lemelson stated: "Dr. Bhatia is a wonderful example of a woman who has used her brilliance, skill, and creativity to radically improve the detection and treatment of serious global health issues."
The urine tests developed by Bhatia harness unique proteases produced by cancer cells. With the test, a patient is injected with nanoparticles carrying specially designed substrates for the cancer-specific proteases. The modified substrate molecules are excreted in urine and detected by a paper-based sensor.
Bhatia said of her research group, to NBC News: "We try to be really nimble. As innovations emerge, we're constantly asking whether they can be repurposed for one of the two diseases we concentrate on: liver disease and cancer."
Bhatia’s achievements extend far beyond just academic publications: she is an advocate for women in engineering, a cofounder of two biotech companies, a mother of two, and a classically trained Indian dancer.
More about LemelsonMIT Prize, Cancer, Sangeeta Bhatia
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