Press

Science Daily: Aqueous two-phase systems enable multiplexing of homogeneous immunoassays
720 540 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

A new protein biomarker test platform developed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Indiana University promises to improve diagnostic testing. The test can accurately and simultaneously measure multiple proteins that indicate the presence of diseases like graft-versus-host disease (bone marrow transplant rejection) in only two hours, no washing steps, and using only a minute volume of blood plasma. A report on this new technology can be found online in the journal TECHNOLOGY.

The protein test uses a micropatterning method developed in Shuichi Takayama’s Micro/Nano/Molecular Biotechnology Lab. “Just as oil and water remain immiscible, we use two aqueous solutions that do not mix with each other,” said Dr. Takayama, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Macromolecular Science and Engineering. “Interestingly, these solutions can be patterned into arrays, whereas standard no-wash protein test reagents normally just mix together in solution. This novel capability makes it possible, for the first time, to measure multiple diagnostic proteins at a time in a no-wash format test.”

To perform the assay, a few microliters of blood plasma is mixed with poly(ethylene glycol) and added to a microwell in a custom 384-well microplate. Next, microdroplets of dextran, containing complimentary pairs of antibody-beads, are dispensed into microbasins within the sample well. During a two-hour incubation, target plasma protein biomarkers diffuse from the poly(ethylene glycol) phase to the dextran droplets and become sandwiched by the antibody beads. The microplate is then read on a commercially available plate reader.

The team demonstrated the effectiveness of their bioassay by measuring protein biomarkers from cytokine-stimulated cells, as well as from the plasma of bone marrow transplant patients. Detecting levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines in blood plasma can be crucial in the diagnosis of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) — the leading cause of death among allogeneic bone marrow transplant patients.

“We envision that our user-friendly and highly accurate platform will be widely used by academic and clinical researchers for diagnostics as well as other applications,” said Arlyne Simon, Ph.D., the lead author on this publication. “To ease the adoption of our technology into research and clinical labs, we designed custom microplates that can be analyzed by commercially available plate readers.”

This article was originally published at www.sciencedaily.com.

Chemical & Engineering News: No Hurdle Too High
1024 683 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

Pursuing a career in the chemical sciences isn’t easy, and it can seem nearly impossible when life throws you one curveball after another. Yet some people who have faced enormous obstacles in their lives are that much more determined to realize their career aspirations, with each challenge being just another hurdle to overcome, and each accomplishment providing more reason to celebrate.

C&EN asked readers from diverse backgrounds to share their stories of overcoming adversity and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. The following is a selection of stories, edited for clarity and brevity, which we hope will inspire and guide others to a fulfilling career in the chemical sciences.


Learning from Failure

In school, I experienced “impostor syndrome,” where I felt less competent than my male peers, particularly in situations where I was either the only female or the only minority in the room.

My parents often reminded me that I was intelligent and could excel in any field that I chose, even if that field was engineering. My peers reminded me that the numerous awards I had received had come to me not because of luck but because I was hardworking and disciplined in chemistry and engineering.

During college, I learned of the micro­fluidics work of Shuichi Takayama, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan, and I was inspired to pursue a Ph.D. in macromolecular science and engineering. Under the guidance of Dr. Takayama, I developed a new protein microarray technology, advancing the field of personalized medicine. Because of the promising results, Dr. Takayama and I cofounded a life sciences start-up called PHASIQ in 2012.

I have since learned to set realistic goals and to reward myself when those goals are met. I have also learned the importance of choosing good mentors who not only encourage innovation but also encourage failure. After all, many great inventions were first dubbed “failed experiments.”

This article was originally published at cen.acs.org.

Photo of Arlyne Simon presenting at the Collegiate Inventor Competition
Huffington Post: What Collegiate Female Inventors Want You to Know
570 427 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

Feeling like a true 21st century worker, as I telecommute from my home office — my left hand holding an earl grey latte from an indie coffee shop, my right hand closing the tab of a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout.

The Hangout, “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something,” was infused with President Obama’s challenge for Americans to be “the makers of things, not just consumers of things.”

In thinking about what it means to grow a generation of makers, a simple and energetic statement I heard last week while interviewing finalists in the Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) came straight to mind. In response to being asked to share her thoughts with young girls on the topic of engaging in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs, one female engineering undergraduate shared, “It’s essentially arts and crafts, but so much cooler… it’s so much more useful.”

I recognize that this analogy may make some scientists and engineers (and/or paper mâché enthusiasts) cringe a little, but it is a user-friendly message to share with the average 8-year-old girl who has likely had more experiences with clay, glue sticks and markers than with petri dishes, digital calipers and 3D printers. (Though that is likely to soon change.)

Here are a few more messages from the female CIC finalists that came through loud and clear:

Don’t Touch That Bar!

These inventors stated that they do not want the bar to be raised or lowered, in regard to expectations around their performance in the field of STEM. They do not want to be held to a different standard (by themselves or others) than their male counterparts.

CIC graduate finalist from University of Michigan, Arlyne Simon, recounts:

As a woman or minority in science and engineering , perhaps in the beginning you may feel a little bit intimidated…At first you may think, maybe you’re just lucky. But then you realize, maybe through your parents and your peers that you’re not lucky—you did this through hard work and you persevered and you succeeded, so you deserve to be there just as much as they do.”

The Nature of STEM, Nurtured

Children are natural STEM-thinkers. They give us every opportunity to make enriched STEM learning an organic and enjoyable part of their lives.

CIC finalist from University of Utah (and third-prize-winning undergraduate team member), Jessica Kuhlman, recalls,

…trying to build a sand castle right next to the waters’ edge and it always falling when the waves would come. I really wanted the castle to have water flowing around it so I had to build up the sand nice and thick near the water so that I could still achieve the flowing water that I wanted.”

Stella Latscha, CIC undergraduate finalist from University of Pennsylvania, links back to middle school, stating that she

…had a sixth grade math teacher who really loved math puzzles and she’d give them to us and my parents both really encouraged me. They didn’t tell me that I was doing well because it was really hard. They just said, (uses casual voice) ‘oh yeah, that was awesome.’ They didn’t intimidate me and I think that led me down this path.”

STEM Is Inescapable (in a Good Way)

“…everyone should have some handle on STEM. It is where the world is going. There is no one that should not be good at it,” says CIC finalist from Johns Hopkins (and first-prize-winning undergraduate team member), Sandya Subramanian.

STEM is seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. It is the products we use, the technologies we engage with, and the planet we all walk upon. Our interactions with STEM are multifaceted and complex and we must all individually navigate the degree to which we make that relationship explicit.

World Changing

“…as engineers, we study the way that the world works, but also how we want the world to work,” shares Elizabeth Beattie, a CIC undergraduate finalist from University of Pennsylvania and former Camp Invention participant. The collegiate inventors alluded to STEM as an empowering vehicle they are using to change lives (including their own).

Erica Skerrett, CIC undergraduate finalist from Rice University, conveys what it was like to see the expression of excitement on the face of a Malawian pediatrician to whom she was describing her team’s invention. “It’s incredibly rewarding. I always wanted to have a job that would help people. I also wanted a job, of course that I found interesting. Biomedical engineering is a perfect field for me.”

More Than STEM

Several of the collegiate inventors wanted it to be known that STEM students are “regular people,” as they gave examples of going out, having boyfriends and girlfriends, and playing sports.

Lauren Davis, CIC undergraduate finalist from University of Pennsylvania, recounts a story of a volleyball teammate’s mother asking her, “…so, what are you going to quit first: engineering or volleyball?” From that moment forward, Lauren decided:

I’m going to do them both. I’m going to do them for four years. I’m going to get it done. I just look at it as such a challenge, to kind of break into this field and prove everyone wrong. You just can’t let anything small, any failure, anyone telling you no, stop you from doing that.”

Once the country has readjusted its manufacturing bar to respond to the president’s challenge to be “makers of things,” be sure to leave it exactly where it is for our nation’s next generation of female inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. They are ready to take on the challenges that face them and “get it done.”

The article was originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com.

PHASIQ Launch
600 400 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

University of Michigan spin-out PHASIQ is looking to bring its new research instrument to a life sciences lab near you in the not-too-distant future.

The Ann Arbor-based startup’s technology genesis came from research developed by Shuichi Takayama and Arlyne Simon at U-M. The 1-year-old company instrument “provides an ultra-specific diagnostic platform for detecting protein biomarkers in biological samples,” according to its company description at this fall’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, where the startup made the semifinals. It offers “the most stringent quality custom assays to pharmaceutical companies for drug and biomarker discovery, advancing personalized medicine.”

PHASIQ’s instruments are currently being used by clinical researchers at the University of Michigan. The company is still tweaking the instrument’s design to streamline its operation.

“We’re trying to change it so anyone can use it,” Takayama says. “We want to make it simple.”

A $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant is currently funding the development of PHASIQ’s technology by the startup’s core team of four people. The company is aiming to commercialize the instrument midway through next year and is currently working to raise a round of seed capital to make that happen.

“We anticipate we will need at least $2 million by 2014,” Simon says.

The article was originally published at www.secondwavemedia.com.

Photo of Arlyne Simon presenting at the Collegiate Inventor Competition
Collegiate Inventor Pitch
1024 550 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

This invention is a diagnostic platform that can detect graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in patients who underwent bone marrow transplantation. The test uses aqueous two-phase system microdroplets to inherently prevent false positive signals, enabling accurate quantification of GVHD protein biomarkers in minute biological samples.