An ‘Amazing Opportunity’ on the Medical Frontline

A diagnostic system that rapidly and effectively detects infectious disease may be a boon for hard-hit areas without access to lab testing.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

Tailoring treatments to each patient’s disease first requires a deep molecular understanding of each patient’s specific illness. That’s why diagnostic tools are the foundation of all personalized healthcare.

Shana Kelley, professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Toronto, is developing highly sensitive and rapid tools that can be used to capture this molecular-level information without a fancy specialized lab. And when it comes to diagnosing infectious diseases, time is of the essence.

AuRA is a diagnostic system that is not only faster than conventional lab testing, but it also eliminates the time-intensive need for transportation. It can be deployed anywhere to perform rapid analysis of the nucleic acids, such as DNA, in a sample.

“The AuRA technology is particularly effective for the diagnosis of infectious disease,” says Kelley. “It allows us to get a really rapid read on whether or not an infectious pathogen is present in a sample. And rapid diagnosis of infectious disease is very important to limit the spread of infections, and also to limit things like antibiotic resistance.”

Portable technologies are particularly important when access to centralized laboratory testing is limited. This includes remote locations and developing nations.

“In the developing world, there are many types of infectious disease that are really rampant and very problematic — things like Hepatitis C, tuberculosis,” explains Kelley.

“These are difficult infections to diagnose, and in parts of the world where you don’t have sophisticated laboratories where samples can be analyzed, it’s really helpful to have portable tools. And our AuRA approach is amenable to being incorporated into a very portable type of testing system.”

Rapid testing at the point of care could even give patients and their healthcare teams immediate answers, within minutes instead of days.

“We have an amazing opportunity to really push the frontiers in terms of the types of tools that we can give to physicians that allow them to practice medicine more effectively and provide better care for their patients,” adds Kelley.

“That’s an incredible opportunity, an incredible type of problem to be able to work on every day. It’s pretty easy to get out of bed every morning with that waiting for you.”

‹ Previous post
Next post ›

Shana Kelley is a University Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. Kelley received her PhD from the California Institute of Technology and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute.

The Kelley research group works in a variety of areas spanning biophysical/bioanalytical chemistry, chemical biology and nanotechnology, and has pioneered new methods for tracking molecular and cellular analytes with unprecedented sensitivity.

Kelley’s work has been recognized with a variety of distinctions, including being named one of “Canada’s Top 40 under 40”, an NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Fellow, the 2011 Steacie Prize, and the 2016 NSERC Brockhouse Prize. She has also been recognized with the ACS Inorganic Nanoscience Award, the Pittsburgh Conference Achievement Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar award, a NSF CAREER Award, a Dreyfus New Faculty Award, and was also named a “Top 100 Innovator” by MIT’s Technology Review.

Kelley is an inventor on over 50 patents issued worldwide.  She is a founder of two molecular diagnostics companies, GeneOhm Sciences (acquired by Becton Dickinson in 2005) and Xagenic Inc. (acquired by General Atomics in 2017).

Kelley serves as a Board Director for Ontario Genomics and a Board Trustee for the Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (FACIT).  She is an Associate Editor for ACS Sensors, and an Editorial Advisory Board Member for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and ACS Chemical Biology.

Research2Reality is a groundbreaking initiative that shines a spotlight on world-class scientists engaged in innovative and leading edge research in Canada. Our video series is continually updated to celebrate the success of researchers who are establishing the new frontiers of science and to share the impact of their discoveries with the public.