Demirel Awarded QED Grant for DNA Capture and Release Project


Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, was recently awarded $150,000 through the University City Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Program for his Thermoplastic Biodegradable Protein Swabs for DNA Capture and Release project.

The QED Program is a multi-institutional program that provides business development support for academic researchers developing early-stage life science and healthcare IT technologies with high commercial potential. During the implementation of funded projects, primary investigators are provided resources and guidance in four main areas: business advice, bridge funding, market drivers and guidance to exit.

Demirel will use his funding and team of business advisers to explore the commercialization of using structural proteins as a coating for biomedical swabs to replace traditional materials such as cotton, nylon, polyester and silk, and increase the capture and release rate of DNA.

“DNA swabs used in market today, although effective, cannot capture one hundred percent of the cells from bodily fluids, and generally, only release twenty to fifty percent of the small sample size collected,” said Demirel. “By using our approach, which has special affinity to DNA, we may capture more than ninety-five percent of the DNA sample and release over ninety percent of it.”

DNA swabs have various commercial uses in both biological and non-biological areas including forensic DNA testing, clinical genotyping, commercial diagnostic and paternity testing, with samples collection methods ranging from buccal, teeth and fingernails to other biological fluids. The use of protein swabs and its significant improvement in the release rate of DNA will allow for more effective gene analysis from even the tiniest amounts of biological samples taken.

Demirel was one of four researchers awarded a grant from the QED program, now in it’s eighth year. Awardees were selected from a pool of 62 applicants and 12 universities in the Greater Philadelphia region by a team of representatives of the regional industry and investment communities, supported by scientific reviewers. Half of the $150,000 awarded will be contributed by the Science Center and half by Penn State. Demirel and his team of researchers will have 12 months to provide proof of concept of his technology.

Read about this year's awardees here.


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Chris Spallino



The Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) is an internationally distinguished department that is recognized for its globally competitive excellence in engineering and scientific accomplishments, research, and educational leadership.

Our Engineering Science program is the official undergraduate honors program of the College of Engineering, attracting the University’s brightest engineering students. We also offer graduate degrees in ESM, engineering mechanics, engineering at the nano-scale, and an integrated undergraduate/graduate program.

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