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Florida Poly professor honored for work on technology that could better diagnose Zika, attack brain tumors

His research seeks to treat patients more efficiently and effectively.

Florida Polytechnic University professor Ajeet Kaushik won the prestigious Universal Scientific Education Research Network (USERN) Prize and named a laureate in the field of biological sciences during the group’s fourth annual congress on Nov. 8 in Budapest, Hungary.

Kaushik’s work centers on detecting and treating diseases in an easy, accessible, and precise manner through the use of nanomaterials for biosensing and medicine.

USERN is a non-governmental, non-profit organization and network dedicated to non-military scientific advances that works to exploring science beyond international borders.

“I was speechless for a while,” said Kaushik, an assistant professor of chemistry at Florida Polytechnic University.

Kaushik did not attend the awards ceremony in person but submitted a video to be played at the event. He was among hundreds of scientists vying for the prize and one of only five people recognized in various areas of study.

Kaushik’s project, Nano-Bio-Technology for Personalized Health Care, focuses on using nanomaterials to create biosensors that can detect disease markers even at very low levels.

“Biosensing is not a new concept, but now we are making devices that are smarter and more capable,” Kaushik said.

Kaushik’s work could be applied to things like the recent Zika Virus that affected pregnant women and their unborn babies by causing microcephaly in some babies, a condition that causes the infant’s head to be smaller than normal.

“There was a demand to have a system that could detect the virus protein at a very low level, but there was no device. There was no diagnostic system,” he said.

Kaushik developed a smart Zika sensor that could detect the disease at low levels.

“The kind of systems I’m focusing on can be customized in a way that we carry like a cell phone and do the tests wherever we need to do them,” he said.

Kaushik’s research on nanoparticles is also advancing efforts to precisely deliver medicine to a specific part of the body without affecting surrounding tissue or other parts of the body.

“The drugs we use now do not go only where they need to go, or sometimes they have side effects. We are treating one disease but creating other symptoms,” Kaushik said.

Kaushik is working on creating a drug that uses nanotechnology to carry the drug to a specific part of the body so its effects can be delivered where needed without affecting other parts of the body.

His work could be used to precisely target brain tumors or other difficult-to-treat conditions.

“My whole approach is using smart material science for better health for everybody, which is accessible to everybody everywhere,” Kaushik said.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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