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Students Collaborate in Developing a Device to Improve Cancer Diagnosis

Brett Geiger (BME junior), Kinshuk Mitra (BME junior), Jeff Kessler (Fisher College of Business junior), and Anja Brkljacic (BME junior) (from left to right in the picture) have teamed up to develop a device that will isolate circulating tumor cells (CTCs).  CTCs are cells present in the bloodstream during early, treatable stages of cancer.  Detection of CTCs can lead to earlier diagnosis of cancer and greater chances for survival.  With patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer, the progression of the disease and success of treatment can be monitored by measuring CTC levels; steadily decreasing levels would be indicative of effective treatment.

The concentration of CTCs in blood is very low, on the order of 1-10 cells per milliliter of blood. For comparison, one milliliter of human blood contains millions of white blood cells and billions of red blood cells. It is necessary to separate CTCs from the multitude of other cells in blood before they can be detected. The device this team is developing uses microfluidic filtration and antibodies to isolate CTCs from the rest of a blood sample.  The device boasts a simple design and costs a fraction of competing products.

These students see limitless potential for this project and are making a strong push toward acquiring a patent and building a company based on their technology. They recently received a $5,000 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) to support initial business development, with a chance to apply for additional $70,000 of funding over the next year. The grant is awarded to student entrepreneurial teams with the goal of bringing projects from the lab to the market. The Ohio State University has also shown financial support by awarding Anja Brkljacic a $300 Sidney Pressey Grant. The grant is intended to alleviate research expenses for students who are candidates for graduation with distinction. Through obtaining these grants, the team strives to be independent in the funding of the project. 

Drs. Michael Tweedle from the Department of Radiology, in the College of Medicine and Ronald Xu from the BME Department have graciously provided these students with laboratory resources and valuable advice throughout the project. Dr. Michael Camp and the OSU Technology Commercialization Office (TCO), supply unconditional support as these students transitioned their technology from the laboratory to the market. An additional thanks from the team goes to Dr. Richard Hart, Chair of the BME Department for his sincere support of the project.