Research

Research Programs

Purposely fighting for people. One project, one advance at a time.

Our powerhouse researchers include more than 150 Illinois faculty researchers, postdocs, and students—some survivors and advocates themselves. Equipped with the engineering know-how to build what doesn’t yet exist, we’re developing cutting-edge tools and programs, including sensors, devices, and software.

Program 1:  Cancer Measurement Technology and Data Science

Themes:

  • Next Generation Imaging

  • Technology for Precision Medicine

  • Computational Biology and Engineering

Program Summary:

The goal of the Cancer Measurement Technology and Data Science is to develop fundamental concepts and novel technologies in medical imaging, cellular/molecular diagnostics, and computational strategies that can aid discovery as well as be translated to clinical practice for societal impact. The scientific excellence and breadth of the program spans three technology-based themes:  1) Next Generation Imaging (“Imaging”), 2) Technology for Precision Medicine (“Precision Medicine”), and 3) Computational Biology and Engineering (“Comp”). 

The Imaging theme is focused on novel optical imaging platform technologies and image/signal processing approaches intended to reduce the invasiveness, increase image contrast, increase detection specificity, and increase tissue penetration depth for in vivo tumor imaging, histopathology, and tumor margin identification.  The focus of the Precision Medicine theme is the utilization of genomic and proteomic information and bioinformatic tools to identify novel blood-borne nucleic acid, protein, and metabolite biomarkers for cancer that can be monitored frequently and noninvasively to better inform clinicians about cancer progression and optimal treatment selection, based upon patient-specific molecular profiles. The Comp theme focuses on novel computational efforts, such as  cancer pharmacogenomics—the study of molecular mechanisms underlying cytotoxic drug response, using genomics data, where we design and develop advanced algorithms and tools for a range of tasks such as identifying top genes, pathways or transcription factors associated with cytotoxic response, using gene expression and/or genotype data. The Comp theme also develops new computational tools to address major problems related to cancer biology.   

Program 2:  Discovery Platforms Bridging the Engineering–Biology Continuum

Themes:

  • Pathways and Mechanisms

  • Cancer Drug Discovery

  • Engineered and Natural Model Systems

Program Summary:

The goal of the Discovery Platforms Bridging the Engineering-Biology Continuum program is to discover novel cancer targets through mechanistic studies, develop lead drugs against these targets, and exploit a spectrum of pre-clinical models to advance our research for the benefit of cancer patients. The scientific excellence and breath of the program encompass three major themes: 1) Pathways and Mechanisms (Pathways), 2) Cancer Drug Discovery (Drug Discovery), and 3) Engineered and Natural Model Systems (Model Systems).

The Pathways theme elucidates important molecular information and provides mechanistic insight into cancer pathophysiology, spanning all aspects of cancer initiation and progression. Underlying factors that are studied include impact of gene mutations, RNA regulation, receptors and signal transduction, metabolism, and host factors (microenvironment). The Drug Discovery theme works to discover a broad portfolio of targeted cancer therapies, with a special impetus from Illinois’ strengths in basic chemistry, ranging from small molecules against defined targets to immunotherapies to nanoparticles. The Model Systems theme leverages Illinois’ biochemical engineering expertise with synthetic models to improve prediction of solid cancer progression as well as develop unique animal models that capitalizes on the Illinois clinical veterinary oncology expertise. Each theme includes components aimed specifically at the translational pipeline with opportunities to work with other members who have expertise in the pre-clinical to clinical transition. Themes also include components that facilitate cross-disciplinary training and education across the engineering and biology continuum, and between programs.