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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers are developing a new solid-state nanopore sensor that they believe can move the reality of fast and affordable genome sequencing a step closer. The sensor, made by drilling a tiny hole through a thin film of aluminum oxide, could ultimately prove capable of performing DNA analysis with a single molecule. This would offer tremendous possibilities for personalized medicine and advanced diagnostics, according to the scientists, who published their paper online April 14 in Advanced Materials.

During this week's podcast lead author Bala Murali Venkatesan provides additional details on the novel nanopore sensor and how it was manufactured. He talks about its advantages over its biological counterparts and describes how the nanopore sensor could lead to quicker and less expensive genome sequencing. Murali Venkatesan also discusses the experiments he and his team carried out to demonstrate the functionality of the sensor and addresses the issue of what still needs to be done to make the sensor a marketable product for genome sequencing.
Murali Venkatesan graduated from the University of Western Australia (UWA) in 2005 with Bachelor of Sciences / Bachelor of Engineering degrees, majoring in Pure Mathematics, Computer Science and Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Honors. He is now in his fourth year of his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His primary line of research focuses on the development of solid state nanopore biosensors for DNA analysis and sequencing at the single molecule level. A cost effective biomedical micro-device of this nature would find broad application in genetics, personalized medicine and in the diagnosis and monitoring of genetic diseases. Progress on the development of this platform will be featured on the journal cover of Advanced Materials, issue 27/2009. Murali is also part of a team of two graduate students that are focused on the development of rapid, portable and cost effective biomedical sensors for the detection of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. This technology uses electrical sensing techniques, namely impedance based spectroscopy to detect and count CD4 cells (in the case of HIV/AIDS) to identify the presence of the disease in real time. The goal of these lab-on-a-chip technologies are to help improve the general quality of healthcare administered to patients in resource poor regions of the world, primarily Sub-Saharan Africa and rural India. Murali was a finalist in the 2009 Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize for Innovation for his efforts on this front.

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