Dr Chenzhong Li On Winning the Pioneer In Technology Award from The Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics

Dr. Chenzhong Li of FIU at the 13th Annual Congress of The Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics (photo courtesy of Dr. Li)

Watch out Alzheimer’s Disease, Miami-tech is here to end your reign of terror!

Dr Chenzhong Li, South Florida’s preeminent Nano-bio-tech scientist, is on track to engineering a solution to one of the biggest problems in all of the world’s aging societies.

The award winning inventor of an “Amino Micro Bio Sensor, ” Li was was recently honored at the Society for Brain Mapping’s 13th Annual Congress. His invention is the size of a single neuron and robotically inserted into the brain to record real time data on the presence of Amyloid Beta protein (an agglomeration of which is a biomarker for Alzheimer’s).

I had the great honor of speaking to Dr. Li about this illustrious achievement, modern medical technology, and bio-sensors. Here’s what he had to say.

Dr. Chenzhong Li receiving his Pioneer In Technology Award from the Society for Brain Mapping &Therapeutics

JacobKatel: To what do you attribute the new interest in funding for brain research?

Dr. Chenzhong Li: The global impact of President Obama’s Brain Mapping Initiative has been crucial in the interest of funding an understanding of how the brain works; And the study of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in particular.

JK: How has FIU, where you are a professor, gotten in on the action?

Dr.Li: FIU has hired top tier world class neuroscientists and engineers.

JK: How did the conference of the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapuetics end up in Miami?

Dr. Babak Kateb and Ranu Jung PhD, Inerim Dean — College of Engineering and Computing at Florida International University — (photo — Jacob Katel)

Dr.Li: Dr. Babak Kateb is a very good friend of mine. He is the founding Chairman of The Board of the SBMT. We were having dinner and I encouraged him to think about Miami as the site of the conference this year. It’s a beautiful world class city with great restaurants, nightlife, and easy access from anywhere in the world.

JK: Congrats on your big award! What did you win for?

Dr.Li: Thank you. I have won the Pioneer In Technology Award for the big impact of my breakthrough discovery. This is how it came about. I was approached by the National Health Institute Alzheimer’s Research Center to develop a technology to measure the Amyloid Beta protein, aka “A Beta.” A- Beta is a known trigger for Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Babak Kateb and Dr. Chenzhong Li at the 13th Annual Congress of the Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics in Miami, FL on Friday April 8, 2016 — (Photo — Jake Katel)

(Dr. Babak Kateb enters the room and introduces himself)

JacobKatel: What do you think of Dr. Chenzhong Li?

BabakKateb: Dr Chenzhong Li does amazing work. He uses biosensors to solve big picture problems; solve neurological disorders with an engineering solution. That’s what SBMT is all about. We are making Google Maps for the brain. Li’s thinking is pioneering

Dr Chenzhong Li crosses paths with Miami artist Aholsniffsglue during the 13th Annual Congress of the Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics in Miami on Friday April 8, 2016 (photo — Jake Katel)

JK: Can you speak some more on the disease you’re fighting?

Chenzhong Li: Alzheimer’s affects over 20 million people and there’s no real treatment. We don’t know if it’s triggered by life, habits, or what. These are the questions we’re trying to understand. Now, A Beta is normally a good protein, but when it clusters, it’s neurotoxic. That much we know. But there was no technology to measure it. Neurologists needed a way to detect it, and they came to me, the biomedical engineer. Biosensors have many uses. I developed a micro needle bio sensor the size of one single neuron that can be inserted into the brain and cause no damage. It is an amino micro bio sensor that detects A Beta protein and it addressed a big challenge in sensing for Amyloid Beta in real time through non invasive technology. Real time.

JK: Woah, that’s awesome!

Chenzhong Li: Thank you. Another use for this technology is to understand the effect of a drug molecule in the brain’s nerves. Now we can monitor drug molecules and screen their effect on the brain, such as in developing treatment for Parkinson’s and other brain diseases. We were published in the Journal of Neurochemistry for this.

JK: How do you implant the tiny needle sensor?

Chenzhong Li: The amino micro bio sensor is inserted robotically. You control the location with a micro manipulator. The bio sensor technology is a bridge between engineering and medicine. This is nano bio tech. We are addressing a critical medical need with an engineering solution.

JK: Truly fascinating. What are some other applications for this type of technology?

Chenzhong Li: DARPA is currently very interested in funding technology for helping soldiers with brain recovery.

Dr. Chenzhong Li’s Lab, also called the Nanobioengineering/Bioelectronics Lab, is located at the Motorola Nanofabrication Center of Advanced Materials Engineering Research Institute in FIU. The research of the group interfaces with biomedical engineering, nanobiotechnology, electrochemistry, BioMEMS, biochemistry,  nanomedicine, analytical chemistry, and materials science.