By SIMMI AUJLA
The Lemelson-MIT program based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology expects to name Chad Mirkin, creator of a range of sensitive diagnostic tests for diseases, as the winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, a premier award recognizing invention.
In choosing Mr. Mirkin, a chemistry professor and nanotechnology research director at Northwestern University, the program recognized his invention of a disease-detection method that is sensitive to low levels of proteins and can help catch Alzheimer's disease and several forms of cancer and heart disease at early stages. The school also recognized him for creating a miniature printing tool that allows researchers to study cancer cells and viruses in new ways.
Mr. Mirkin, who has more than 70 patents and many more pending, owns Nanosphere and NanoInk, two Illinois companies that sell his inventions. He also has started one other nanotechnology firm.
The program is scheduled to announce the award on Wednesday. It called Mr. Mirkin a "prolific inventor and entrepreneur" whose innovations have the potential "to transform the future of medical diagnostics and patient point-of-care."
Mr. Mirkin's products use nanotechnology, which is based on the science of very small particles, to help researchers study diseases. His disease-detecting method, branded as Verigene, is thousands of times more sensitive than conventional methods to low levels of proteins or nucleic acids that show a person could develop a certain disease. The method can return results in an hour as compared with several days, in some cases.
"Nanotechnology is not like any other field," Mr. Mirkin said. "It's a different way of thinking about doing all science."
The scanning technique -- called dip-pen nanolithography -- creates patterns on several materials on an extremely small scale. Scientists can then use the patterns to learn more about the nature of certain cells and distinguish between normal and cancerous cells.
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