Mehdi Javanmard Receives NSF CAREER Award

Assistant Professor Mehdi Javanmard (ECE) is the principal investigator of a 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award titledReconfigurable Electro-Fluidic Prescriptions (REFRx): Data-Driven Biosensors for Detection and Treatment of Multidrug-Resistant Cancers.”

The goal of this project is to develop an all-electronic platform that can rapidly identify drug resistant cancer cells in tumors and prescribe a course of treatment for the patient that minimizes the chance of cancer recurrence. The process will include both screening cancer patients for drug resistance and identifying the key molecular players involved for selecting optimal cancer treatment drugs.

According to Javanmard, drug resistance is one of the greatest impediments to treating both cancer and infectious disease and has been identified as one of the greatest public health threats over the next several decades.

“Treatment of multi-drug resistance in cancer is difficult using static analysis platforms because of the rapid ability of tumor sub-clones to mutate and become insusceptible to a chemotherapeutic drug,” he says.

Javanmard’s research proposes a microfluidics/electronic/data-driven crosscut approach. An analyzer will iteratively detect drug resistant cells using reconfigurable impedance cytometry in conjunction with machine learning,  sort them using dielectrophoresis (DEP), analyze them using a reconfigurable array of label-free protein sensors, and then use a machine learning classifier to further sub-type the drug resistant cells to select a drug combination to test in the subsequent iteration.

“A new class of data-driven biosensors will be developed that can adapt themselves on-demand to detect and treat multidrug resistant cancers,” says Javanmard. “This research can then be broadly applied to a multitude of biomedical applications including anti-microbial resistance.”

This interdisciplinary project will also engage and train both graduate and undergraduate students in various areas. More broad dissemination of knowledge will include engaging K-12 students through outreach workshops, local industry through educational lectures and an online course. 

The NSF CAREER program fosters the career development of outstanding junior faculty, combining the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense.