Kumar and Murthy receive Keck Fund award

Bioengineering professors Sanjay Kumar and Niren Murthy have been granted a $500,000 research award from the W.M. Keck Foundation for their project, Single Tumor Cell Proteomics for Diagnosis and Prognosis.

Sanjay Kumar

Sanjay Kumar

Niren Murthy

Niren Murthy

The ability to measure protein levels in single cells has become increasingly important in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, to identify specific molecular markers. However, they technology does not yet exist to easily and accurately perform these sensitive tests in standard laboratories.

Kumar and Murthy’s research aims to develop an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) platform that will allow researchers to routinely perform single-cell proteomic experiments. They plan to develop the technology to identify the proteomic “fingerprints” that predict key clinical features of the incurable brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme. By combining microfluidics with a new family of nanoparticle-based ELISA detection substrates, they expect to increase the assay sensitivity by 3-4 orders of magnitude and enable single-cell proteomics to be conducted with traditional plate readers.

Single invading tumor cell

Single invading tumor cell

The researchers’ vision is to allow clinicians can predict disease course and select therapy based on proteomic data from a patient’s tumor.

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The foundation’s grant-making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering.