Innovating SARS-CoV-2 Detection

Laasya Devi Annepureddy works with Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kenneth Tichauer studying diabetic retinopathy, a common side effect of diabetes that damages a patient’s ability to see and is a leading cause of blindness. She has been working on simulation models for imaging the retina, working toward the goal of detecting the disease earlier.  

“Under Dr. Tichauer’s guidance, I have been able to get the Armour R&D fellowship, through which I got the chance to showcase my research at the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium, where I won the Top Engineering and Computer Science Award in spring 2021,” says Laasya.

When she was young, Laasya traveled back and forth between India and Europe and says that she noticed a stark difference in the access to health care between the two regions. That awareness drew her to biomedical engineering, which she saw had many opportunities to build effective solutions for bridging the gap. 

“Illinois Tech was one of the best value colleges. I was attracted to the offer predominantly because of the emphasis on undergraduate research opportunities as well as a good scholarship,” says Laasya. “Plus, the one-year-long senior design classes are the highlight of the curriculum; I think they really allow you to innovate and prepare you for the workforce.”

Laasya has embraced Illinois Institute of Technology’s culture of innovation. She’s a member of a student team that has been working on a SARS-CoV-2 sensor that can detect the virus in under a minute. The project began in an Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program course, and Laasya and her teammates have worked with the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship membership program to further develop the concept and conduct experiments. Their research was published in the spring 2021 Illinois Institute of Technology Undergraduate Research Journal

“Kaplan’s membership program has been a very challenging yet exciting path. Through it, we got research mentors and industry mentors to help us develop a prototype and devise a path to commercialization and a business model,” Laasya says.  

Laasya received the 2021 Toprani Undergraduate Research Award, which provides funding of $5,500.

This summer Laasya will be continuing her research project at Illinois Tech while also working part-time as an intern at Azyki Inc., a startup that uses genetic information to personalize medical treatments. She is responsible for designing, developing, and testing the pipeline for gene analysis of drug-metabolizing enzymes. Laasya plans to pursue graduate school, either continuing research in cell and tissue engineering or branching out to work with medical devices. “My long-term career goal is to obtain an M.S. or a Ph.D. through which I can specialize in a chosen biomedical science area that will eventually contribute to improving quality of life. I want my research to be helpful for people and contribute to society,” says Laasya.

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