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Engineering Professor Becomes Malaria Sleuth


UCR Engineering Professor is Malaria Detective

Mihri Ozkan is part of a team receiving a National Academies Keck Futures Initiative grant.

(April 13, 2006)

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Name: Kris Lovekin
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Mihri Ozkan

Mihri Ozkan

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.edu — University of California, Riverside Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Mihri Ozkan is part of a team receiving $75,000 from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative to build a malaria diagnosis device.

Ozkan, a faculty member at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, will develop the nanotechnology needed for an inexpensive measuring device to detect active malaria infections in remote field settings where there is little or no electricity or medical expertise. The diagnostic tool will use microfluids, nanotechnology and genomics to diagnose the type and drug resistance of malaria parasites in humans.

Ozkan’s collaborators are from Duke University, Durham N.C. They are Professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery, Debra Schwinn; and professors of electrical and computer engineering Nan Jokerst and Richard Fair.

The Keck Futures Initiative grants are part of a $1 million, 14-project effort encompassing a wide range of approaches to the field of genomics and infectious diseases, which was the subject of the third Futures conference, “The Genomic Revolution: Implications for Treatment and Control of Infectious Disease,” held last November in Irvine, Calif.

These competitive seed grants aim to fill a critical gap between research on bold new ideas and major federal funding programs, which do not typically provide grants in areas that are considered risky or unusual. The Futures grants allow researchers to start developing a line of inquiry by recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows, purchasing equipment, and acquiring preliminary data — all of which can position the researchers to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.

Funded by a $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation in 2003, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public — with the objective of stimulating interdisciplinary research at the most exciting frontiers.

The National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation believe considerable scientific progress and social benefit will be achieved by providing a counterbalance to the tendency to isolate research within academic fields. The Futures Initiative is designed to enable researchers from different disciplines to focus on new questions and entirely new research, and to encourage better communication between scientists as well as between the scientific community and the public.

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The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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