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Biomedical informatics professor receives federal grant for radiation dose detection

February 29, 2012

Valentin Dinu, an assistant professor in ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics (BMI), has joined as co-investigator and participating researcher in an ASU-led team that has received a federal grant to contrive medical approaches and technology for radiation dose detection.

In the wake of nuclear accidents and terrorist attacks, the project aims to develop innovative technologies that would rapidly measure an individual’s level of exposure to radiation in the event of a radiological or nuclear incident.

No such technology currently exists that can quickly assess radiation exposure in a large population.

The five-year, potential $35.4 million project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The current phase, with a budget of $5 million, began in August 2011 and will conclude in June 2012.

The principal investigator of the project is Lee Cheatham, deputy director of the Biodesign Institute at ASU, and ASU co-investigators are Josh LaBaer, Mitch Magee, Garrick Walstrom and Valentin Dinu.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop a diagnostic system that would ensure that medical responders have the information necessary to provide appropriate medical treatment and ensure human health and safety,” Dinu said in a statement.

Other participating institutions include the Tucson-based High Throughput Genomics Inc, Columbia University and the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Consistent with FDA guidelines, the research team will develop a Biodosimetry Assay System, which would measure the amount of ionizing radiation an individual has absorbed.

The system would do this by analyzing a blood sample and examining gene-expression markers that indicate radiation absorption. Dinu and his collaborators are working to create an algorithm based on gene expression data. High throughput genomics investigation techniques such as next generation sequencing (RNAseq) and microarrays are used to generate the data to determine the specific genomics effects of radiation.

Once the prototypes demonstrate success, the team will pursue authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to deploy the system for use in emergencies.