Stephen Quake, pioneering bioengineer, to receive Gabbay Award

Stephen Quake

Stephen Quake, a pioneering bioengineer whose work with microscopic amounts of fluid is transforming medicine, will receive Brandeis’ Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine today in a ceremony at 4 pm in Gerstenzang 123.

Quake, the Lee Otterson Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at Stanford University, is a world-renowned expert in microfluidics. The approach enables scientists to measure and then direct the flow of liquids at the sub-millimeter scale.

Quake has applied microfluidics to biology, devising a system of “microplumbing” where minute amounts of bodily fluids are directed through a circuit of channels and valves and then analyzed. As a result, you need only the tiniest amount of sample from patients to perform diagnostic testing.

In 2008, Quake invented a non-invasive method of diagnosing Down Syndrome in a fetus from a few drops of the mother’s blood rather than cells extracted from inside the womb. It’s estimated that more than half-a-million women have avoided amniocentesis or other invasive diagnostic tests because of Quake’s research.

Quake also is recognized for sequencing his own DNA using a novel approach he developed in his lab for under $50,000. To his surprise, he discovered he was at elevated risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes and coronary artery disease.

“In demonstrating the first single molecule DNA sequencing technology, applying it to sequence his own genome, and conducting the first clinical annotation of a whole genome sequence, he heralded the now burgeoning field of personal genomics,” says Brandeis professor of physics Jané Kondev.

Quake’s research has also focused on mapping the immune system, an interest sparked when his daughter was diagnosed with food allergies.

Quake is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a member of the National Academy of the Sciences, and the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship and the Lemelson-MIT Prize. He has 80 patents and is the founder of four companies.

He is the 18th recipient of the Gabbay Award, which was created by the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Foundation to recognize scientists whose work has outstanding scientific content and significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences. The award includes a $15,000 cash prize and a medallion.

Quake will present a lecture on precision measurement of biology at the ceremony. Cynthia Bamdad, the founder and current chief scientific officer of the Minerva Biotechnologies Corporation in Waltham, will be a guest speaker.

Categories: Research, Science and Technology

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