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Rice U Researcher Wins Two Grants to Develop Novel Omics Tools

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Rice University researcher David Zhang has been awarded two National Institutes of Health grants in the past month worth $5.5 million over five years — one to develop NGS probes and the other to design and validation of novel PCR primers.

The first grant, from the National Human Genome Research Institute will support work Zhang has been doing to develop molecular capture probes that can better detect disease-causing DNA variants by masking healthy sequences in a sample. He has also started a company called Searna to commercialize capture probes.

The second grant is from the National Cancer Institute. It funds the design and validation of novel PCR primers sensitive to single-base mutations, as well as instruments for low-cost, point-of-care analysis of cancer-specific mutations.

The platform is described in the grant abstract as an on-­chip convection PCR instrument with an integrated multiplexed array-­based readout. The instrument is being designed for simultaneous detection and quantification of 1,000 rare single nucleotide variants per sample, and will be validated on blood samples from non-small-cell lung cancer patients, according to a statement from Rice.

Zhang also recently described a catalyst-based thermodynamics method to enable better oligo design, as previously reported by GenomeWeb