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Inaugural Discovery Prize 2014 Winner


Laurie Krug

Laurie Krug’s laboratory researches herpes viruses that are associated with cancer. She is working with Dr. Balaji Sitharaman to pursue their idea of delivering molecular scissors to the site of virus infection using nanoparticles. “We need to understand how these viruses set up shop in specific cells, and what makes them wake up after years of dormancy in our bodies,” Krug says. “Our ‘nanotools’ will be a new approach to understanding how viruses cause disease.”

Krug says this is purely exploratory science, with no initial hypotheses. “The preliminary data we generate through the support of the Discovery Prize will be instrumental to convince agencies such as the National Institutes of Health [NIH] and the National Science Foundation [NSF] that this technology can be applied to basic research investigations of fundamental biological questions, and may evolve towards translational applications to treat and possibly cure disease.”

2014 Finalists


Gábor Balázsi is the Henry Laufer Associate Professor in the Laufer Center for Physical & Quantitative Biology in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Eden Figueroa is an Assistant Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, working with Tzu-Chieh Wei, Assistant Professor in the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Laurie T. Krug is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, collaborating with Balaji Sitharaman, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering. Emre Salman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, working with Milutin Stanaćević, an Associate Professor in the department. 

Gábor Balázsi saw increasing evidence that cells become abnormal even without genetic mutations. He developed tools that artificially increase or decrease the 

fraction of abnormal cells without introducing mutations; he’s trying to discover how non-genetically abnormal cells and cellular diversity inside tumors affect cancer progression. Once understood, it may then be possible to develop medications to control cellular diversity and increase treatment efficiency. “The Discovery Prize would help me pursue these nonconventional ideas that are risky but could be highly impactful if successful,” he says. “It will help me try to break new ground and explore directions that would be inaccessible through traditional funding mechanisms.”

Eden Figueroa’s lab is trying to create new technology based on quantum mechanics. He and Tzu-Chieh Wei are seeking to measure and control quantum mechanical effects at room temperature in atomic gases; this could lead to a quantum processor. “We are reinventing the way computers are built, in order to make them incredibly more powerful,” Figueroa says. “We would use the Prize to acquire new equipment to test our ideas. I am also hoping that getting the Prize will increase the visibility of my research, and that in turn will lead to more funding.”

Emre Salman is proposing a novel method for performing computation in energy-autonomous systems that “harvest” power from ambient sources. He and Milutin Stanaćević want to recycle electrical charge in a unique way that particularly fits wireless power harvesting systems; the proposed method significantly increases energy efficiency and computational capability. “Considering the growing contribution of the overall IT sector to global energy consumption, this project would be a significant milestone for green electronics and energy autonomous systems,” Salman says. He adds, “The Discovery Prize would enable us to pursue this high-risk/high-reward research and develop a first prototype as a proof-of-concept, which would initiate larger-scale interdisciplinary research and a new approach to energy autonomy.” 

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