NIH Names Carnegie Mellon’s Zhao Top New Innovator

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Yongxin (Leon) Zhao, assistant professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, has received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award. The award is part of the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.

Yongxin (Leon) ZhaoThe program supports risky ideas that have the potential for great impact in biomedical research and catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting compelling, high-risk research proposals that may struggle in the traditional peer review process despite their transformative potential. Program applicants are encouraged to think outside the box and to pursue creative, trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH mission.

The grant will support Zhao as he develops transformative nanoscale imaging techniques that will allow researchers to see precise “biomolecule maps” in pathology samples. These maps will allow for the comprehensive analysis of complex maladies such as cancer, infection, and immune diseases.

Modern pathology traditionally uses regular light microscopy to analyze biopsies. This type of microscopy isn’t powerful enough to image biopsies at the nanoscale. To overcome this limitation, Zhao created a new technique called Expansion Pathology, which physically magnifies biopsies, allowing subtle pathological changes to be seen using existing microscopy equipment. Zhao will use the NIH funding to build on Expansion Pathology and create new chemistry and imaging strategies for more informative pathology at the nanoscale. Specifically, he will develop a portfolio of more powerful imaging platforms that allow for the direct observation of detailed biomolecule maps in biopsies. He plans to demonstrate the power of these platforms on a range of diseased tissues from precancerous breast lesions to infected tissues.

Published: November 2018
An SI prefix meaning one billionth (10-9). Nano can also be used to indicate the study of atoms, molecules and other structures and particles on the nanometer scale. Nano-optics (also referred to as nanophotonics), for example, is the study of how light and light-matter interactions behave on the nanometer scale. See nanophotonics.
BusinessYongxin ZhaoLeon ZhaoCarnegie MellonNational Institutes of HealthNIHDirector's New Innovator AwardHigh-Risk High-Reward ResearchawardsgrantsnanoImagingBiophotonicsAmericasRapidScan

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