An Australian engineer who specialises in microfluidics has been named as one of the top 10 innovators under 35 in the Asia-Pacific region by MIT Technology Review.
Dr Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani (pictured above) is an early career researcher and lecturer at UNSW's School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, who is pioneering research to build miniaturised systems that separate the rare cells of the human body.
Dr Warkiani and his team have been researching microfluidics, where they engineer solutions to manipulate fluids at the micro-scale, to enable the sorting and separating of rare cells.
Cell sorting is used in a range of medical applications, including separating platelets from other blood cells for treating serious complications from bleeding and haemorrhage. It is also used for extracting foetal cells from the blood of pregnant women for prenatal diagnosis.
Because cell sorting (also known as "cell enrichment") is an essential preparatory step in many chemical and biological assays, engineers like Dr Warkiani have been researching new approaches that use various microfluidic technologies to make the process more efficient and high throughput.
Dr Warkiani and his team have developed a number of new miniaturised cell separation systems, known as inertial microfluidic platforms, which use the force produced by fluids in motion to separate the cells.
The technology has shown considerable promise in point-of-care diagnostics and clinical research. The new systems are already being used to separate circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from blood to enable them to undergo genetic analysis for advanced cancer management.
They are also being used to isolate malaria parasites from blood for early malaria diagnosis and to separate stem cells to better understand their therapeutic potential. The systems are in the process of being commercialised.
Besides his work in microfluidics, Dr Warkiani has investigated using micro-engineered filters for water treatment, biomimetic microsystems, 3D devices to investigate angiogenesis and tumour formation, rapid prototyping and tissue engineering, and developing micro PCR chips.
Dr Warkiani, along with other researchers on the 2015 list of Innovators Under 35 for the region, will be formally recognised at the upcoming 2016 EmTech Asia conference (to be held from 26 to 27 January 2016 in Singapore), where each will present a three-minute elevator pitch about their research.
As one of the chosen Innovators Under 35 in the APAC region, Dr Warkiani is also in the running to become a finalist in the global list of Innovators Under 35, which will be announced later in 2015.