Indian origin scientist Sangeeta Bhatia wins $250,000 Heinz Prize

Photo Courtesy: Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies


By Newsram Staff Writer

An Indian-origin scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been honored with a prestigious 250,000 dollars Heinz award for her work in tissue engineering and disease detection.

Sangeeta Bhatia, who is John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, has been chosen for the 2015 Heinz Award for her seminal work in tissue engineering and disease detection. The $250,000 award recognized her passion for promoting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The Heinz Awards, each year, acknowledges individuals for their extraordinary contributions to arts and humanities, human condition, environment, technology, economy, public policy and employment.

Bhatia’s team pioneered the fabrication of artificial human microlivers, which are being used by many biopharmaceutical companies to test the toxicity of drug candidates,” a news portal said.

Bhatia is also using microlivers in the lab to model malaria infection and test drugs that can eradicate malaria parasites completely — even the parasite reservoirs that remain in the liver after a patient’s symptoms subside. The young scientist hopes to eventually develop implantable liver tissue as a complement or substitute for whole-organ transplant.

Talking about the award, Bhatia said, “This type of recognition helps to bring science into the public eye so that everyone can appreciate the dedication and innovation that is happening in laboratories all over the country.”

“In her study of cancer and the tumor microenvironment, Bhatia and her laboratory have developed synthetic biomarkers that pave the way for simple, low-cost cancer diagnostics. Their engineered nanoparticles interact with tumor proteins in the body and release hundreds of these biomarkers, which can be detected in urine. One application relies on a paper-strip urine test that can reveal the presence of cancer within minutes in mouse models. This point-of-care, low-budget technology holds great promise for earlier cancer detection in the developing world and other settings with limited medical infrastructure.” the MIT news said.

Bhatia who is a graduate from MIT, also was a part of Keys to Empowering Youth (KEYs) program that connects middle school girls with science and engineering through hands-on activities and mentorship from MIT students.

“I’m hopeful that the visibility associated with this award can inspire young girls by showing them what a rewarding profession – and life – STEM can yield,” she added.

Bhatia will be honored with the prestigious award on May 13 at a ceremony in Pittsburgh.