Designing and Testing Tools for Pathogen Identification in Wild Mosquito Populations
Organization: Stanford University
Location: Stanford, California, USA
Problem: Effective disease surveillance requires up-to-date knowledge of disease incidence and risk, but collection of this data from humans is limited by under-use of local health systems, which typically lack diagnostic capacity, and the cost of frequent population-based blood testing. Tracking disease in vectors can provide a reliable record that directly mirrors the dynamics of human infections, but collecting such data with traditional methods at scale has prohibitive challenges: they require bulky, chemically- or even human-baited traps for mosquitoes that have to be taxonomically sorted by hand, and individually selected for dissection and downstream processing using highly specialized and expensive equipment.
Solution: A novel microfluidic platform - VectorChip - that enables the large-scale autonomous collection of individual saliva droplets originating from single mosquito bites that can be used to identify the mosquito and pathogen species, including a broad range of human biting mosquitoes (Anopheles, Aedes, Culex) and numerous pathogens (including Zika, Dengue and Malaria). The low cost of sample collection and analyses allows for high spatiotemporal resolution monitoring of pathogen occurrence in mosquitoes. This continuous and fine-grained monitoring of mosquito-borne infections enables the design of swift, effective and minimal interventions to control their spread.
Manu Prakash – PhD in Applied Physics, MIT; MS in Applied Physics, MIT
"Many of my ideas come from my travels and from my childhood growing up in India. Being in the field gives meaning to working in global health, it teaches you empathy, a driving force so strong that it transforms ideas into actions. Plus, the things that you make for kids to explore and experience help you determine if the ideas are robust, scalable and versatile."
Haripriya Mukundarajan – PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University [in progress]; MS in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University; MTech, Indian Institute of Technology
"I want to use technology to design solutions for human well-being, and I'm always looking out for new challenges that can be addressed using novel engineering concepts. Mosquito-borne disease is a field that intensely piques my curiosity and interest, as it presents an area less familiar to engineers but with considerable opportunity for creative innovation and technical problem-solving, with the opportunity to directly benefit people's lives."
Felix Hol – Post-Doc, Stanford University [in progress]; PhD, Delft University of Technology; M.Sc., VU University Amsterdam
"Being able to address interesting (fundamental) questions in quantitative biology in the context of global health problems. I enjoy bringing biophysical approaches to questions in population biology, with the aim of benefitting resource-constrained populations. The ecology and evolution of mosquito-borne diseases allows me to do exactly that."