Ramanujam and Lynn named as two of the world's top young innovators by Technology Review magazine
University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering Assistant Professors Nimmi Ramanujam and David Lynn are two of the world's 100 Top Young Innovators according to Technology Review, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Magazine of Innovation.
Technology Review honors 100 young researchers each year whose innovative work in business and technology has a profound impact on the world. Nominees are recognized for their contribution in transforming the nature of technology in industries such as biotechnology, computing, energy, medicine, manufacturing, nanotechnology, telecommunications and transportation.
Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Nimmi Ramanujam has developed a device that can help guide a biopsy needle to just the right spot. An optical fiber threaded through the needle shines light of different wavelengths on cells at the needle's tip; molecules in cancer cells respond by fluorescing in characteristic ways, and sensors register the fluorescence.
"We are all very excited for Nimmi," says Department of Biomedical Engineering Chair Rob Radwin. "Nimmi has been an invaluable addition to our young department. This phenomenal accomplishment of hers is well-deserved, and is testimony to the high caliber of innovators we have been able to attract to Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin. "
Ramanujam and her colleagues are already testing the technology in patients undergoing breast cancer surgery and plan to test it in patients undergoing breast biopsy within the next year. A cervical-cancer detector she began developing as a graduate student uses a similar approach; it is now in large-scale human trials. She is also harnessing light to non-invasively monitor how well oxygen is getting to fetuses, an important-and currently non-measurable-indicator of when emergency cesarean sections are needed. With Ramanujam's help, those babies will be born into a world where medical questions get better answers.
As a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering David Lynn became fascinated with polymers and their possible biomedical uses. One such possibility is that polymers could deliver therapeutic DNA to cells to treat conditions such as cancer or cystic fibrosis. Other researchers pursuing gene therapy have used modified viruses to carry genetic material into cells, but viruses can provoke serious immune reactions. The right polymer could make a much safer delivery agent, because the immune system is far less likely to perceive it as a threat.
As a postdoctoral student at MIT, Lynn developed a process that could synthesize hundreds-or even thousands-of new polymers at once and screen their varying DNA-transferring capabilities. His approach has already identified several new polymers that excel at gene delivery. Lynn has two patents issued or pending relating to his process and has been approached by several companies for commercial development on his ideas.
"We are excited to have David Lynn in the department," says Chemical and Biological Engineering Chair Thomas Kuech. "His innovative research into new polymers and polymer screening is having an impact on the development of new biomaterials, particularly in the gene delivery area. He is one of those researchers who can bridge the gap between fundamental science in the area of materials synthesis and rapidly emerging application areas."