“SIMPL-CD” Proposal Garners NIH Distinction for BME Assistant Professor

Michelle Khine receives NIH New Innovator Award

Advances in microfluidic devices point to a promising future of accurate, portable, inexpensive technology for improving the diagnosis of a myriad of diseases in areas where access to advanced medical equipment is limited. Michelle Khine, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering and materials science, has been named a recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award.  The grant, $2.295 million over five years, will fund Khine’s proposal, “Shrink-Induced Manufacturing Platform for Low-Cost Diagnostics (SIMPL-CD),” which aims to develop Khine’s existing micro- and nanofabrication technology to create microfluidic devices to detect rotavirus infections from saliva samples in children in developing countries.

The challenge of micro- and nanofabrication on a large scale lies in the difficulties and costs associated with patterning the specifications of a device at an appropriately high resolution. Instead of relying on tradition fabrication techniques -- largely inherited from the semiconductor industry -- for microfluidic applications, Khine’s research laboratory has developed a radically different approach. Patterning is done inexpensively at the large scale using a desktop laser jet printer or a craft cutter from a hobby store. The thermoplastic sheets then relax to their pre-stressed condition when heated for a few minutes, causing the macro patterned features to also shrink.

Using this approach, Khine’s lab has been able to create fully functional and complete microfluidic devices with integrated nanostructures within minutes.  These devices can be created for only pennies per chip, and without any dedicated costly equipment. This enables researchers to make custom microsystems on demand for a range of applications from basic biology studies, to stem cell research, to point of care diagnostic devices used to detect infectious diseases.

Khine’s New Innovator grant will support research for creating microfluidic devices to detect rotavirus infections from saliva samples in children in developing countries.  Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children. Khine’s lab proposes to create the entire microfluidic device needed for rotavirus detection, with integrated nanostructures, out of these inexpensive plastic sheets for pennies and within minutes.

As part of NIH's commitment to increasing opportunities for new scientists, it has created the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, which addresses two important goals: stimulating highly innovative research and supporting promising new investigators. The award supports exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact.
Prior to UC Irvine, Khine was an assistant and founding professor at UC Merced from 2006-09.  At UC Merced, Shrink Nanotechnologies Inc., the first start-up company from youngest UC campus, was spun out of the research developed in Khine’s lab.

Khine received both her B.S. (1999) and M.S. (2001) degrees in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. (2005) in bioengineering from UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley.  In the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center under Professor Luke P. Lee, Ph.D., Khine focused on developing microfabricated polymeric devices for cellular manipulation and analyses. As a Microsystems and Engineering Applications Institute Fellow, she also concurrently worked at Sandia National Laboratory. While in graduate school, she spun out a company, Fluxion Biosciences (San Francisco), based on her dissertation work of single-cell electroporation.