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Vivek Sivathanu

Email: vsiva@mit.edu

Focus group: Infectious deseases

Department: Mechanical engineering

Hometown: Chennai, India

Undergrad: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, India

Webpage: http://www.linkedin.com/in/viveksiva

Research summary:

A few years ago the Influenza vaccine was voted the most useless vaccine of all time. This is because the influenza virus is a rapidly mutating virus with both point mutations and intermixing between different strains often leading to a novel strain. The vaccines which based on the previous seasonal strains often miss novel strains some of which end up pandemic. Traditional in-vitro experiments are based on influenza infection of MDCK cells grown on membranes or petri dishes. This is not realistic; the viral evolution profile is at best poorly predictive. Our efforts are focused on creating in-vitro models of influenza evolution in the human upper airway tract. We use PDMS based microfluidics devices with a biomimetic hydrogel scaffold and a dynamic mechanical environment to create a very realistic in vitro model. Impedance based instrumentation is used to monitor pathogen invasion via trans-cellular or para-cellular pathways. Viral evolution under various selective loads will be used to provide a much more educated guess than current methods to make seasonal flu vaccines.