Booz Allen Hamilton Colloquium: Jennifer Blain-Christen, Arizona State University
Friday, October 22, 2021
3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Zupnik Lecture Hall
301 405 4471
From Cancer to COVID, Pivoting in the Pandemic
Jennifer Blain-Christen, Associate Professor, Arizona State University
Abstract: Medical diagnostics have become increasingly distributed with the availability of point of care (clinic-based) and point of need (at home or in field) testing. Currently, high sensitivity diagnostics are limited to laboratories or point of care equipment the size of a refrigerator to small car. While handheld devices have made some inroads (e.g. self-monitoring blood glucose and pregnancy test), they are limited to applications with high analyte concentrations. Rapid, colorimetric tests have met the need for raid results with low infrastructure. Rapid flu, Zika, and even COVID colorimetric tests (color test strips) enable triage and help prevent transmission of infectious disease. However, they are generally considered non-quantitative or semi-quantitative at best.
Our work has focused on bridging the gap between the need for rapid results and highly sensitive, quantitative testing. With a focus on low resource settings, we have engineered a fluorescence-based testing system for point of need testing. This system has been demonstrated in India working with AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science) Dehli to address disproportionate mortality rates due to cervical cancer. As we were ramping up to a large clinical trial, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We believed that our handheld, multiplexed, quantitative fluorescence-based system could be modified to enable RNA-based (gold standard) testing outside of a medical laboratory. Supported by the Arizona Department of Health Services, we navigated the hurdles of research in a pandemic. This presentation will cover the foundational technology and how we pivoted through the pandemic to enable point of need testing approaching diagnostic laboratory sensitivity.
Bio: Jennifer Blain Christen received a bachelor's degree (1999), master's degree (2001) and doctorate (2006) in electrical and computer engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Immunogentics Department. Blain Christen is currently leading the BioElectrical Systems and Technology group at Arizona State University where she is an associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering. Her research has recently focused on point of care/need diagnostics, wearable diagnostics, field deployable sensors, and flexible neural interfaces. She is an NSF CAREER awardee, NSF ADVANCE fellow, DII@FSE (diversity and inclusion) taskforce member, Fulton Entrepreneurial Fellow, and Flinn Foundation Scholar. She is the co-founder of FlexBioTech, a faculty-based startup with a mission centered on medical equity.