“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for expedient diagnostic testing. We developed a cost-effective, single-tube approach for collection, denaturation and analysis of clinical saliva samples. This offers a reliable, deployable, point-of-care diagnostic method that can increase frequency and reduce the logical burdens of traditional large-scale testing,” says Andrej Luptak, corresponding author and pharmaceutical sciences professor. School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences / UCI

Andrej Luptak, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry, was awarded a $200,000 grant through the Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2017 Pew Innovation Fund. For the past 30 years, Pew has supported over 900 early career researchers. The new Innovation Fund provides a funding opportunity for scientists from different disciplines to collaborate and build interdisciplinary research projects. Luptak, in partnership with Barbara Golden, professor of biochemistry at Purdue University, is one of six teams to receive financial support to pursue scientific advances as the inaugural class of Innovation Fund investigators. The collaboration combines Golden’s expertise in structural biology and RNA catalysis with Luptak’s background in biochemistry and molecular evolution to develop a programmable RNA enzyme — or ribozyme — that can be used to build new customized proteins. Their research has potential impact in studying covalent modifications of proteins, development and production of the next generation of biologicals, as well as the origin of life. Luptak earned a doctorate in biophysical chemistry at Yale University and joined the UCI faculty in 2007.