Rice University bioengineer David Zhang recently received two grants from the National Institutes of Health worth more than $5.5 million over the course of five years to develop next-generation sequencing for DNA and novel early cancer detection methods.
“My research has three main areas,” Zhang said. “One is to understand the basic science of DNA and RNA. The second is to make very rapid diagnostics for point-of-care use for infectious diseases. The third is to make comprehensive tools for diagnostics and profiling. We need a way to enrich DNA of interest by removing the vast majority of healthy DNA that does not provide meaningful scientific or clinical information.”
Zhang’s first grant, worth more than $2.5 million over five years from the National Human Genome Research Institute, will go toward developing molecular capture probes, which allows his lab to bind healthy DNA and effectively move it out of the way so that they can identify sequences of interest, a valuable tool considering a small blood sample can hold 100 million billion nucleotides.
The second grant comes from the National Cancer Institute and will provide Zhang with $3 million over five years to design and validate polymerase chain reaction primers and instruments that will allow cancer-specific mutations to be analyzed at points of care and at low costs.
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