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Scott Manalis, associate professor of biological and mechanical engineering, has been awarded a new grant from the National Institutes of Health to promote investigation of novel, unconventional hypotheses.
The NIH today announced it will award $42.2 million to 38 research projects under the new grant program, called EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration).
"EUREKA projects promise remarkable outcomes that could revolutionize science," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni.Â "The program reflects NIH's commitment to supporting potentially transformative research, even if it carries a greater than usual degree of scientific risk."
Manalis, who is also a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and the MIT Media Lab, said he plans to use the funding, approximately $200,000 per year for four years, to develop a microsystem for cell sizing.
Manalis says the sizing system could help answer the question of how cells control their size. Such work could help shed light on how cancer develops, and could potentially be used to evaluate the effectiveness of cancer drugs.
The system is based on a mass sensing technology recently developed in the Manalis laboratory that can weigh mammalian cells with a precision of one part in 10,000.
The cell-sizing project grew out of a collaboration with biologists Paul Jorgensen and Marc Kirschner of Harvard Medical School, who worked with Manalis and his students to develop approaches for studying mammalian cells with the mass sensing technology.
The Manalis laboratory originally developed the mass sensor for immunoassays. "We never planned to weigh cells," he said. "It has been exciting for us to find an application in cell biology."