[October 27, 2015; Philadelphia, PA] – Haim H. Bau, PhD, and Changchun Liu, PhD, of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at the University of Pennsylvania have been named the 2015 recipients of Penn’s One Health Award, recognizing their exemplary contributions to expanding interdisciplinary collaboration and improving health care for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment. The One Health Award was established in 2013 by the deans of the four health schools at Penn—the Perelman School of Medicine (Penn Medicine), the School of Nursing Science (Penn Nursing), the School of Dental Medicine (Penn Dental), and the School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet).
The award ceremony will take place on Wednesday, October 28 at 6:00 p.m. at Penn Vet’s Hill Pavilion (380 S. University Ave., Philadelphia), as part of the 2015 Microbiome Symposium.
Bau and Liu have worked for several years with researchers at Penn Medicine, Penn Vet, and Penn Dental to develop an inexpensive, high sensitivity platform for molecular diagnostics at the point of care. The platform utilizes smartphone technology and is suitable for use in resource-poor settings, the field, the clinic, and at home. Bau and Liu have used the new platform to adapt existing technologies to detect pathogens in humans, animals, food, and water.
Recently, Bau and Liu developed a novel device called the nuclemeter, which determines the concentrations of target nucleic acids based on the lengths of reaction zones in reaction-diffusion columns. The device may be particularly useful in profiling the gut microbiome.
“We are delighted to recognize the extraordinary collaborations throughout the University that take advantage of our talented faculty and students to advance health for people, animals, and the environment,” said Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Through their innovative platform, Drs. Bau and Liu have built bridges between our healthcare specialties for the benefit of all. Their work truly embodies the spirit of One Health.”
Bau is a professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at SEAS. His current research interests are in nano- and macro-fluidics, with applications in biology and medicine. These applications include transporting liquids and particles through nanopipes, and constructing laboratories on chips for disease detection at the point of care. Bau is a member of the Nano/Bio Interface Center and the Institute for Medicine and Engineering, two Penn centers that bring together researchers from different Penn schools to pursue opportunities for collaborative research.
The Bau lab has worked with Penn Vet on a number of projects, including detecting drug-resistant salmonella in food matrices, diagnosing Strangles in horses, and developing a high-sensitivity field test to detect prepatent schistosomes in humans and Dirofilaria immitis in dogs.
The Bau lab also has collaborated with Penn Dental on the detection of HIV in saliva. In partnership with researchers at Penn Medicine, the Bau lab is now detecting HIV viral load in blood.
“We are fortunate to be at an institution that fosters interdisciplinary collaborations, which enabled us to apply engineering principles to important health problems in humans and animals,” Bau said.
Liu is a research assistant professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics also at SEAS. His research interests include microfluidic devices, BioMEMS and biosensors, and point-of-care diagnostics.
In collaboration with Penn Botswana and with support from Penn’s Center for AIDS Research, Liu is currently adapting the platform to detect meningitis in humans.
“I am excited and honored to receive the 2015 One Health Award,” said Liu. “As a mechanical engineer, I am privileged to have worked with many extremely talented and dedicated biomedical researchers at Penn. ”