Three pairs of interdisciplinary researchers have been awarded 2019 Petit Institute Seed Grants.
The program annually pairs two researchers from the Petit Institute as co-principal investigators, providing early stage funding opportunities that serve as a catalyst for bio-related breakthroughs.
The teams and their projects are:
Vinny Agarwal (assistant professor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry) and Shu Takayama (professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory) are working on a project called, “Marine bromine bleach bomb net to fight pseudomonas aeruginosa,” which is an aggressive pathogen that has high antibiotic resistance. Infections caused by P. aeruginosa usually occur in people in the hospital or weakened immune systems, and they can be deadly. Agarwal and Takayma are joining forces to develop new interventions to treat this and other antibiotic resistant pathogens.
Greg Sawicki (associate professor, Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering) and Tim Cope (Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering) submitted a project called, “Modifying musculotendon neuromechanics to improve proprioception in aging.” Through their research into understanding the interaction between biological and engineering systems, the Sawicki-Cope team plans to develop a roadmap for designing better exoskeleton controllers that may improve mobility in aging by restoring proprioception.
Gabe Kwong (assistant professor, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering) and M.G. Finn (professor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry) have a project called, “Activity biosensors that implement Boolean logic as precision diagnostics for immunotherapy.” The researchers reason that disease detection and evaluation of treatment responses in vivo depend on the ability to extract clinically useful information from complex biological systems. Noting that previous work in biological computing led to the use of genetic and cell-based tools, they propose that developing programmable biomaterials to perform basic computations, such as Boolean logic, may provide a new framework to increase detection precision and resistance to biological noise.
The Petit Institute Seed Grants provide year-one funding of $50,000 with equivalent year-two funding contingent on submission of an NIH R21/R01 or similar collaborative grant proposal within 12 to 24 months of the year-one start date (July 1, 2019).