In-vivo Banner, Vol 3 No12, Nov/Dec 2004 co branded with the Columbia University Medical Center logo

Global Health
Research Briefs
Around & About
Point of View


Mailman Researchers Develop New Diagnostic Tests
NIH grant supports development of technology to diagnose SARS, other deadly infectious pathogens

CUMC researchers, led by Ian Lipkin, M.D., the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Mailman School of Public Health, have received a $3 million NIH grant to create a new rapid, sensitive technology for differential diagnosis of infectious diseases. This technology, Mass Tag PCR, will be implemented within the World Health Organization laboratory network, enhancing surveillance efforts for rapid containment of global infectious disease threats.

Dr. Lipkin, also professor of neurology and pathology, is collaborating with Thomas Briese, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical epidemiology and associate director of the Greene Lab, and Jingyue Ju, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering and head of the DNA Sequencing and Chemical Biology Unit at the Columbia Genome Center.

The technology they are developing integrates PCR and chemical ionization mass spectroscopy into a stable assay platform that can simultaneously detect and discriminate among multiple diseases. "Our first goal is to use the technology to distinguish pathogens implicated in respiratory diseases including SARS-associated coronavirus and influenza viruses," says Dr. Lipkin. "Later, we'll extend it to other National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases priority agents such as Ebola, Rift Valley fever, dengue and pox viruses. Our ultimate goal is to exploit this technology for point of service use for diagnosis of infectious diseases in clinics and hospitals."

The researchers are going to develop the Mass Tag PCR on conventional mass spectroscopy instruments, then shift to portable instruments using miniaturized mass-spectrometric equipment suited to field applications. 

Dr. Lipkin is also principal investigator and scientific director of the Northeast Biodefense Center, a consortium of academic and governmental biomedical research institutions from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and strategic partners from other states, one of eight Regional Centers of Excellence that has received a multi-year federal grant for biodefense and emerging infectious diseases research.

—Matthew Dougherty