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Alessandra Luchini, a scientist in George Mason University's Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, has captured the inaugural Premio Award for the top Italian woman scientist in North America. She recently was honored in a ceremony in Milan, Italy, by award presenters Bridges to Italy, an international business association, and the Italian Women Inventors and Innovators Network (ITWIIN).
The competition attracted more than 40 Italian women scientists working in the fields of life sciences, nanotechnology, or alternative energy and the environment. A jury of experts selected three finalists on the basis of the worthiness of their research to society, business and the scientific community, and the final selection was made online by interested voters.
"I decided to compete for the Premio Award because I recognize the importance of bringing public attention to research accomplishments in order to get continuous support for our work to improve the health of patients worldwide," says Luchini. "I also think it is very important that women's roles in research are recognized and celebrated."
Luchini was selected for her contributions to the development of smart hydrogel nanoparticles that mix with a patient's blood or urine sample to instantly soak up protein biomarkers and protect them from degradation when they are extracted for analysis. The invention is recognized as a breakthrough in biomarker discovery and analysis because it immediately preserves, protects and stabilizes the molecules -- something no other technology has been shown to do.
"My invention is a technology that relates to the war against cancer," Luchini explains. "We all have relatives or friends suffering from the disease. It is recognized that early diagnosis can save lives, so it is important to detect cancer when it is a small lesion and prior to metastasis." The nanoparticles are being used to identify biomarkers for cancer and other diseases, and their potential use in a urine-based anti-doping test to detect human growth hormone also is under study, she adds.
Ceres Nanosciences LLLP, a Virginia-based biotechnology company, has commercialized the invention as the Nanotrap™. A number of applications for high-demand diagnostics and other needs in the life sciences industry are currently under development.
Luchini originally came to Mason from Italy to participate in an unprecedented proteomics research program between the university and the Instituto Superiore di Sanita` in Rome. The program, designed to unveil new cancer diagnostics and therapies through the discovery of drug targets and biomarkers for early disease detection, is in its fourth year.
Bridges to Italy and ITWIIN provide opportunities to Italian scientists around the world for recognition in the scientific and business communities, international networking, and business and research collaboration.
About George Mason University
Named the #1 national university to watch by U.S. News & World Report, George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., Mason prepares its students to succeed in the work force and meet the needs of the region and the world. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, dance, organizational psychology and health care, Mason students are routinely recognized with national and international scholarships. Mason professors conduct groundbreaking research in areas such as cancer, climate change, information technology and the biosciences, and Mason’s Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage.
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