Research team develops low-cost, accurate COVID-19 antibody detection platform

A robust, low-cost imaging platform utilizing lab-on-a-chip technology created by University of California, Irvine scientists may be available for rapid coronavirus diagnostic and antibody testing throughout the nation by the end of the year.

But UCI investigators Weian Zhao, Per Niklas Hedde, Enrico Gratton and Philip Felgner believe that their new technology can help accelerate the testing process quickly and affordably. Their discovery appears in the journal Lab on a Chip, which is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“We need to test millions of people a day, and we’re very far from that,” said Hedde, a project scientist in pharmaceutical sciences and the study’s lead author. “This accurate testing platform enables public health officers to implement individualized mitigation strategies that are needed to safely reopen the country and economy.”

How it works

Using blood from a finger prick, the UCI test probes hundreds of antibody responses to 14 respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, in a mere two to four hours. Identifying responses to viral infections with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 will keep hospitals clear of patients with standard colds and flus.

The results are printed on a low-cost imaging platform. The TinyArray imager combines a 3-D-printed prototype with an off-the-shelf LED and a small 5-megapixel camera to find markers for many antibodies simultaneously. This ensures accuracy equal to that of expensive imaging systems but makes the platform portable enough to deploy anywhere—at a cost of only $200.

The same device can also process the results of commonly used nose swab tests for SARS-CoV-2 so that patients can be tested for COVID-19 and its antibodies on a single platform.

Currently, most antibody tests only check for one or two antigens, the foreign substances that cause the body to produce antibodies.

“A month or two ago, testing was kind of regarded as the Wild West,” said Zhao, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, adding that most SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests are “just not accurate.”

Systems that test for the full range of antibodies necessary for reliable results require imaging machines that cost $10,000 to $100,000 and are too bulky for widespread use. Areas without the resources to acquire one of these machines have to send their samples to external labs for testing, meaning that results take days instead of hours.

Big impact

Large-scale testing will determine what percentage of the population had COVID-19 but never showed symptoms, which will have a big impact on public health and reopening decisions.

“What if it turns out that a larger percentage of the people in a community have already contracted the virus?” Zhao said. “This means you are closer to accomplishing herd immunity.”

And understanding what antibodies are produced and how long they last will be key in developing an effective vaccine and administering the right dosage. This may be critical for years to come if the virus mutates, requiring updates much like yearly flu vaccinations.

The UCI team has already completed 5,000 tests in Orange County, and the final goal is to test 20,000 samples per unit a day. The researchers are partnering with UCI startups Velox Biosystems Inc. and Nanommune Inc. to scale up production. They expect that the TinyArray imager will be ready to deploy across the U.S. by the end of 2020 and are working with scientists in Uruguay, Russia and Thailand to develop similar systems for their nations.

“This would be great for a low-income country,” Hedde said. “Because the device’s materials are cheap and easy to obtain, the platform is easy to manufacture and use in low-resource areas, making testing accessible on a world scale.”

Read full article on Phys.org.

UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic receives $3.2 million NIBIB award to develop sinus imaging system

Drs. Zhongping Chen and Brian Wong of UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic were awarded a $3.2 million National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering grant to develop and validate an innovative sinus imaging system.

For over 20 years, Drs. Chen and Wong have collaborated, both contributing expertise in optical imaging, system and probe designs, as well as translating these benchtop technologies to clinical applications. Their study focuses on the design, construction and clinical evaluation of a phase-resolved spectrally encoded endoscopy (PR-SEE) integrated with optical coherence tomography (OCT).

According to the research team, over 50 million Americans suffer from chronic sinus issues every year with over 600,000 surgeries performed annually to treat sinusitis.  The economic impact accounts for over $35 billion annually in health care costs with over 3.5 million work and 2 million school days lost each year.

“Currently, there are no reliable methods to gauge sinusitis severity or response to therapy,” said Dr. Wong.  “Physicians must rely on the subjective feedback from patients or from physician-directed endoscopy, which interpretation may also be subjective.”

“Successful clinical translation will prepare the endoscopy for future investigations,” said Dr. Chen.  “We firmly believe that the results of the study will jumpstart developments in pharmacotherapy, devices and surgical intervention.”

UCI Faculty & Researchers Tackle COVID-19 from all Angles

Story courtesy of: Ethan Perez, UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Photos courtesy of: Ryan Mahar and Steve Zylius, UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Illustrations courtesy of: Julie Kennedy, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

Anteaters assemble to find answers and develop solutions to the global pandemic, from personal protective equipment and ventilators to test kits and vaccines.

UC Irvine (UCI) is one of the nation’s premier research universities, so when it became clear that COVID-19 was becoming a global threat, its faculty and researchers took action without skipping a beat.

Much work is needed in the fight against the coronavirus, from diagnostics and ventilators to personal protective equipment and vaccines, and UCI’s brightest will stop at nothing to make Southern California and the world a safer place. Below are a few of the projects developed by the hardworking men and women who make UCI proud.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Antigen Microarray Aims to Speed Up Testing
Director of the Vaccine R&D Center Phil Felgner, and his Protein Microarray Laboratory team at UCI’s School of Medicine’s Institute for Immunology, developed a microarray test to determine if a person has been exposed to COVID-19. With a simple finger stick blood test, results are available in 10 minutes. Felgner, along with clinical research faculty members Dr. Saahir Khan and Dr. Sebastian Schubl, a will conduct a six-month study involving UCI healthcare workers to understand the COVID-19 immune response. Chancellor’s Professor of Mechanical Engineering Marc Madou is also collaborating on this effort to integrate the microarrays onto compact disc-based fluidic platforms, which can speed up the process.

Genome-Wide Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine in Development
Professor of Cellular and Molecular Immunology Lbachir BenMohamed has submitted a grant proposal to develop a safe and efficient Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine. The vaccine would ideally stop and reduce the present SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmissions as well as reduce the severity of COVID-19 disease. In addition, this “preemptive” Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine is designed to stop or modify any upcoming future Coronavirus outbreaks that may be caused by yet another transmission of SARS-like Coronaviruses (SL-CoVs) from bats to humans.

Campus Labs Produce Fluid Required for COVID-19 Test Kits
Test kits for COVID-19 require a liquid called viral transport medium (VTM) that preserves samples so that they can be analyzed in a lab. When the UCI Medical Center asked the UCI campus for assistance in procuring more VTM, many labs across campus stepped up. The Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center created a task force and began production in Gross Hall.

Face Shields Designed and Assembled for UCI Medical Center
Collaborators from the medical center, the business community, UCI Beall Applied Innovation, UCI School of Medicine, the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Claire Trevor School of the Arts worked together to quickly design, test, evaluate, assemble and deliver thousands of face shields. Design leads Jesse Jackson and Ben Dolan utilized advanced manufacturing facilities on campus to produce the parts in record time.

Bridge Ventilator Consortium Connects Industry Experts
The Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC) is a group of physicians, engineers and biomedical device experts from across the country that collaborate virtually to design and build low-cost ventilators. Dr. Brian Wong of the School of Medicine, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic (BLIMC) is spearheading the consortium with Dr. Govind Rajan, the director of clinical affairs at the UC Irvine Medical Center, and Thomas Milner, director of the BLIMC. The BVC is collaborating with a number of institutions and organizations, including Virgin Orbit, the University of Texas at Austin, UCI faculty and the University of Southern California. The BVC has now moved beyond ventilator devices and is focused on other projects involving noninvasive ventilation, microwave inactivation, light-based therapies and other technology-based solutions to address COVID-related problems.

Ventilators Created from Repurposed Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machines
Dr. Matt Brenner, professor of medicine, pulmonologist and interim director of the BLIMC proposed the idea of repurposing CPAP machines to be used as ventilators for COVID-19 patients. Elliot Botvinick and Bernard Choi, professors of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery and core faculty members of the BLIMC, have led the effort to create ventilators based on the machines, commonly used by those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Team Designs Low-Cost Mechanical Ventilator
With the guidance of medical doctors, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Haithem Taha and his doctoral student Moatasem Fouda have developed a low-cost medical ventilator. In particular, they developed a novel respiratory regulation unit (RRU), which forms the heart of a mechanical ventilator. The RRU operates without the use of electronics and provides greater control compared to the simple, low-cost ventilators recently developed for the COVID-19 crisis.

Team Develops Windshield Wiper Motor-Inspired Ventilator Design
Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Elliot Hui, along with graduate students Vincent Zaballa and Erik Werner, have developed a low-cost ventilator prototype that utilizes a windshield wiper motor based on a design pioneered by Thomas Milner’s lab at the University of Texas at Austin. The adjustable motor speed allows the ventilator to be adapted to each patient’s specific needs. Parts for this ventilator are being 3D-printed by Luis Ramirez, an undergraduate in Hui’s group, from home.

New Pneumatic Ventilator Design Developed
Marc Madou and his bioMEMS team have developed a ventilator that uses a pressurized chamber. The ventilator – created using low-cost electronics – sends compressed air into and out of a patient’s lungs through inhalation and exhalation valves.

Task Force Created to Plan Students Eventual Return to Schools
Dr. Dan Cooper, professor of pediatrics and founding director of the Institute for Clinical Translational Science, is working with a team of educators, policymakers, scientists, clinicians, students and parents to determine how, when and under what conditions public schools should reopen. The task force is called Pediatric Research Organized and Targeted to Eliminate the COVID-19 Threat (PROTECT).

UCI Researchers Team Up to Develop COVID-19 Self-Screening Test
A team of UCI researchers is developing a self-screening test that uses a patient’s saliva to deliver rapid results. The test strips would match with a HIPAA-compliant smartphone app to instruct anonymized patients on next steps as well provide researchers with a heat map of infection zones. Collaborators include Elliot Botvinick; Michelle Khine, professor of biomedical engineering; Chancellor’s Professor Plamen Atanassov; Sean Young, associate professor of emergency medicine and informatics; and Dr. Shahram Lotfipour, professor of emergency medicine and public health.

Professor Explores Inexpensive Point-of-Care COVID-19 Immunity Test
Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering Peter Burke is investigating a less expensive way to detect antibodies by using short DNA sequences. If successful, easy-to-produce at-home tests could allow patients to determine if they have antibodies to COVID-19, which may in the future indicate immunity. It will be as easy as an at-home pregnancy test.

New System Aims to Understand Virus Mutation
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Chang Liu and his lab are using an accelerated protein evolution system they developed to mimic how natural immune systems develop antibodies, but at a faster pace. This rapid evolution system allows Liu and team to better understand SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses and to develop ways to detect and neutralize the virus.

Study Reveals Virus Transmission Risks
Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering Sunny Jiang, and team, conducted a quantitative microbial risk assessment to investigate the risks of SARS-CoV-2 exposure through contaminated aerosols in bathrooms.

Professor Awarded to Study Diagnostics & Therapeutics for Virus
Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences John Chaput received a COVID-19 Research award from UCI to develop therapeutic aptamers – or single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules – to treat COVID-19 patients. These reagents represent a new drug class that would prevent the virus from negatively interacting with lung cells.

Award Funds Research on Cell-free, Cellular COVID-19 Vaccine
Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Young Jik Kwon received COVID-19 Research awards from UCI to create a novel extracellular vesicle-based vaccine that effectively and comprehensively boost the immune systems against SARS-CoV-2.

Professor Develops Molecules that can Prevent Virus Spread
Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Andrej Luptak received COVID-19 Research awards from UCI to develop molecules that can block the virus from spreading within the lung tissue of a patient, in addition to a diagnostic tool that would detect the virus in patient samples in minutes.

Innovative solutions to understand and combat COVID-19 are still in high demand.

Read full UCI Beall Applied Innovation Rising Tide article.

Inventive Medicine

by Greg Hardesty, UCI

Optics innovator Thomas Milner is back at UCI as director of the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic

July 17, 2020 – In 1975, when he was a sophomore at Alameda Senior High School in Lakewood, Colorado, Thomas Milner’s literature teacher told him something prophetic.

He can’t recall what book he was reading, but during a discussion about it with his teacher, she said: “I see you being an inventor and doing some great things.”

Milner, who at the time was interested in mathematics, recalls feeling puzzled.

“She was telling me my future,” he says. “And I could tell that she really believed it. And I thought, ‘Gosh, how’s that one going to work out?’”

As it turned out, just fine, thank you.

Milner, the new director of UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, is a pioneering developer of optical-based medical instruments for surgery and diagnostics. He cut his teeth at the clinic in 1992 as a Whitaker Research Fellow, a post he held until late 1997.

In early 1998, Milner and his wife, Jyoti, a high school biology teacher, and their two young children, son Prasaad and daughter Surya, relocated to Austin after he accepted a faculty position in the University of Texas’ biomedical engineering program.

So leading the world-famous Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, which opened in 1986, is something of a return home for the 60-year-old optical sciences wizard, who holds 55 U.S. patents. He’s also a UCI professor of surgery and biomedical engineering.

COVID-19 creation

A windshield wiper motor from a Toyota Camry recently landed Milner in the news.

Earlier this year, he and a group of researchers at the University of Texas developed an automated breathing unit based on the car part to supplement hospital ventilators used to keep critically ill COVID-19 patients alive.

The Automated Bag Breathing Unit is a “bridge ventilator” that’s much less complex and costly than a standard one. A manufacturer outside Dallas is making 50 ABBUs and is prepared to crank them out en masse should a surge in coronavirus cases occur.

“It’s one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on,” Milner says. “All the engineers on the team donated time and work. It was a humanitarian effort.”

Such medical breakthroughs are nothing new for him.

Back when he was a research fellow at UCI, Milner was the co-inventor of “dynamic cooling” technology that revolutionized the approach to certain skin disorders.

The other inventor, Dr. J. Stuart Nelson, is currently medical director of the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, which treats patients from around the world for port-wine stain birthmarks, hemangiomas and other vascular malformations.

At the University of Texas, Milner also co-led a team of scientists and engineers that developed the MasSpec Pen, a hand-held, penlike device that can rapidly distinguish tumor tissue from healthy tissue during surgery.

Scientists, engineers and physicians at UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic all collaborate – a legacy of scientist, inventor and philanthropist Arnold O. Beckman and the vision of co-founder Michael Berns, whose original work focused on using lasers to perform microsurgery in cells. The scope of research at the facility has since branched out.

One of Milner’s immediate goals as director is to establish a couple of advisory panels.

“When I was here in the 1990s,” he says, “we had a lot of interaction with industry, but the institute has never had industry or academic advisory committees. They’re important to ensure that we’re calibrated right and that we listen to other people’s perspectives.”

Ranch in Montana

Milner, who grew up in Colorado, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree in physics at the Colorado School of Mines. Before his fellowship at UCI, he obtained a Ph.D. in optical sciences at the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center.

In February of this year, Milner was at UCI preparing for his new job when COVID-19 hit. He and his family retreated temporarily to their 20-acre ranch in Montana.

“I really like working on the land,” Milner says. “I enjoy doing stuff people did a hundred years ago.”

He also continues to enjoy doing stuff no one has ever done before.

One new invention he’s tackling is a laser-guided wire to clear blocked coronary arteries.

“It’s really cool,” Milner says of the SmartWire, adding: “The field of light and medicine has just exploded over the last 30 years and, in my opinion, will continue to grow.”

Closed for a while due to the coronavirus, UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic reopened in early June. Research has been ramping up since mid-June.

Milner, who replaced interim director Dr. Matthew Brenner, oversees 24 core faculty members.

“It’s exciting to me,” he says of his new career, “even though there’s never going to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done. But that’s a good position to be in.”

Read full UCI News article.

Chris Barty and The Bridge Ventilator Consortium featured in UCI Magazine

Dr. Chris Barty, UCI Distinguished Professor of physics & astronomy, is researching the use of diodes from Blu-ray digital video disc devices as deep-ultraviolet laser photon sources to rapidly disinfect surfaces and indoor air.  Such technology would be less expensive than current medical- and scientific-grade systems and easily deployable.  “If these sources are successful, I think you could build them into a mask and clean the air that’s coming in and out of you,” Barty said.  “Or you could set things up in the air circulation ducts of major buildings, and the airflow that goes through could be sterilized.”  They could also function in hand-held wand devices, he said, or as a “light curtain” through which people walk as they enter a room, exposing them to UV-C radiation that – at a wavelength between 200 and 260 nanometers – will destroy viruses and other pathogens but pose minimal risk to humans.

UCI engineers are answering the call for simple and affordable ventilators, using off-the-shelf parts and designing stopgap products to help fill the demand.  Many are participating in the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, a team of physicians, engineers and biomedical device experts from UCI, the University of Texas, Virgin Orbit and Medline Industries.

Read UCI Magazine.

Chen Wins $2.9 Million NIH Grant to Develop Intravascular Imaging System

By Lori Brandt, UCI Samueli School of Engineering

July 6, 2020 – The NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has awarded Zhongping Chen, professor of biomedical engineering, a four-year $2.9 million grant to continue the development of a new imaging technology that will enhance clinicians’ ability to identify vulnerable lesions, tailor interventional therapy and monitor disease progression for patients with cardiovascular disease.

Chen, a pioneer in the field of biophotonics, proposes to make a multimodal intravascular imaging system that combines three sophisticated technologies into a single catheter device. These technologies are the high resolution of optical coherence tomography, deep tissue penetration of ultrasound and the biomechanical contrast of optical coherence elastography (a technique that maps the elastic properties of soft tissue). The collaborative research project involves Pranov Patel, professor of interventional cardiology at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, and Qifa Zhou, professor of biomedical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

According to Chen, cardiovascular disease is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths, or 650,000 Americans, every year. It is the leading cause of death in the United States. Ruptured atherosclerotic plaques are the main cause of acute coronary events, and it is of lethal consequence. Clinically, early detection of the latent vulnerability of plaques is the first line of defense against such deadly circumstances, and it relies on visualizing both the structural and biomechanical properties of tissue. Accurate characterization of a plaque lesion can facilitate better treatment management by furthering understanding of disease progression.

“We expect the development of the proposed high-speed, high-penetration-depth and high-sensitivity system and probe to have significant impact to both basic science and clinical understanding of plaque pathogenesis,” said Chen. “This will be a powerful tool for providing a quantitative means to benchmark and evaluate new medical devices and therapies.”

Read full UCI Samueli School of Engineering article.

Natasha Mesinkovska receives ICTS pilot study award

UCI Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic’s Dr. Natasha Mesinkovska received a UCI Institute for Clinical & Translational 2020 Science Pilot Studies award for her alopecia areata research.  The ICTS Pilot Studies are designed to support exceptionally innovative and/or unconventional research projects that have the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms.

Alopecia areata (AA) is a hair loss disorder caused by an autoimmune attack on the hair follicle. Hair loss can range from small patches of scalp hair loss to total scalp (alopecia totalis) or total body hair loss (alopecia universalis). Genetic factors are thought to play a part in the development of AA, however the exact mechanism behind the disease is not completely understood. One of the key components of AA is over-activity of immune cells. This process is mediated by an intracellular protein, Janus Kinase (JAK), which promotes continuation of the disease process. Given this discovery, JAKs have emerged as highly-effective therapeutic targets for the treatment of AA.

Consistent with literature, many AA patients show strong hair regrowth in response to JAK inhibitors. Through the observation of patients in the Clinic, it has shown that hair regrowth occurs in patches that enlarge over time. This pattern of hair regrowth has been documented in multiple published studies, however not yet explicitly analyzed in humans..

Dr. Mesinkovska proposes that adult human hairs are, in principle, capable of activation of a collective chain reaction-like hair growth pattern. While this ability is not normally apparent in the healthy scalp, it can be obvious during AA resolution, a distinct disease state containing many dormant hair follicles. The first objective of the pilot grant is to collect strong clinical proof for a “spreading wave” pattern of hair regrowth in AA patients. This will be accomplished by non-invasively imaging the hair follicles on the edges of re-growing hair patches. The focus will be on identifying the spatial arrangement of quiescent hair follicles to early growing hair follicles – a telltale sign of spreading hair regrowth waves. This will then be confirmed on histology with biopsies of hair patch edges. For the first time, the data will provide direct support for the ability of human scalp hair follicles to collectively enter the regrowth phase, providing fundamentally new knowledge for the field of human hair and AA research.

The second objective of the research study is to collect RNA sequencing data from the edges of regrowing hair patches to identify novel signaling changes within the hair follicles and surrounding cells. These changes will include proteins that influence hair follicles to initiate regrowth, and thus are potential therapeutic targets for hair growth stimulation. Dr. Mesinkovska anticipates that their findings will lead to the development of new strategies for the treatment of AA; with the potential for the discovery of break-through therapies for additional types of hair loss.

Read the full abstract.

UCI Beckman Laser Gets New Director

by Jessie Yount, Orange County Business Journal

The University of California-Irvine Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic has tapped Thomas Milner, a three-time entrepreneur and serial
technology inventor with 55 issued patents, to oversee and expand its research activities.

Milner was recently named director for the photonics institute; he’s the third person to have the position. Milner starts July 1. His plans include prioritizing diversity in faculty and establishing external advisory committees with industry and academic-like entities so that BLIMC is ultimately “recognized by the industry as an excellent partner for both knowledge, intellectual property, scientific and engineering expertise, and as a
source of students who wish to pursue industrial careers,” he said.

Milner has also been granted joint appointments in the departments of biomedical engineering and surgery, and said one major piece of his plan is
working with the UCI Beall Applied Innovation center to convert research into viable commercial ventures that provide value to the community.

He added, “The future is great here in Irvine, and the community will benefit for decades to come.”

Optical Inventions

Milner counts prior ties to UCI; he notes that both his children were born at the University of California-Irvine Medical Center, when he was a Whitaker Research Fellow and research assistant professor at BLIMC from 1992 to 1997.

He’s no stranger to commercial translation. During his time at BLIMC, Milner and J. Stuart Nelson, medical director of the clinic, co-invented a dynamic cooling device that has significantly improved laser dermatological treatments. It was licensed to Wayland, Mass.-based Candela Laser Corp. and has brought UCI more than $40 million in royalties to date.

In 1998, Milner left Irvine to serve as the Joe King Professor at Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received the Inventor of the Year award for an optical coherence tomography (OCT) technology that helps physicians diagnose conditions such as glaucoma and heart disease.

His technology led to the birth of two companies: Dermalucent LLC and CardioSpectra Inc., a high-resolution imaging company that sold to San
Diego-based Volcano Corp. for about $25 million in 2007.

Research Pipeline

Milner’s current research focuses on the treatment of chronic total occlusion (CTO), or the complete obstruction of an artery, which today requires an invasive bypass procedure to treat.

Milner has created a guidance and laser system that could treat CTO in a minimally invasive manner. It is currently being tested in animal trials.

While his work took him to Texas, Milner notes that he kept in touch with his colleagues in Irvine. When the pandemic began spreading in the U.S., Milner created a ventilator prototype used by the Bridge Ventilator Consortium group established at UCI.

The team said it expects to receive FDA approval for its low-cost and easy-tomanufacture breathing-assistance device any day now.

COVID-19 research at BLIMC include several ventilator-related projects, as well as a UV sterilization effort led by Chris Barty.

Barty is pioneering a new type of X-ray technology through his Irvine-based company Lumitron Technologies Inc., which was profiled in the May 20 print edition of the Business Journal.

The UCI Office of Research recently transitioned to Phase II of its reopening plan, allowing normal research activities at its various institutes to resume with enhanced sterilization and social distancing in place.

At BLIMC, that means basic research and clinical research can resume once faculty submit risk assessments.

Legacy of Innovators

Milner succeeds Bruce Tromberg, who left BLIMC in 2018 to lead the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in Bethesda,
Md.—one indication of the institute’s prominence in the field.

Arnold Beckman, the visionary behind today’s Beckman Coulter Inc., and Michael Berns launched BLIMC in 1982 with the mission to use light (or
photons) to study the basic biology of cells, and apply that knowledge to medical applications.

“Arnold Beckman was an innovator himself, and his legacy is what Beckman Laser Institute is all about—providing innovation to benefit people through new products and devices,” Milner said.

In his new role, Milner said he hopes to push the field of photonics beyond studies in the eyes and skin to cardiology and neurology such as Alzheimer’s disease, in turn providing “a better understanding of our overall health and wellbeing.”

Read full Orange County Business Journal article.

Beckman Laser Institute receives advanced nonlinear optical microscopy funding

Drs. Eric Potma and Mihaela Balu were awarded a $1.6M grant to acquire an innovative multiphoton microscope, offering advanced tissue imaging capabilities at depths beyond what can be achieved with standard optical imaging techniques. Besides its state-of-the-art imaging capabilities, the system is equipped with a custom-engineered modality, making it possible to rapidly capture selective imaging of important tissue components, such as lipids, collagen, melanin and cell metabolites.

The system supports numerous cutting-edge studies for the early detection of melanomas, hypoxia in retinal tissues, skin aging, malaria drug development, muscular dystrophy and many more diseases and conditions.  This unique instrument offers the advanced tissue imaging capabilities needed to propel the science of our research community into the next decade.