UW Bioengineering research assistant professor Barry Lutz

Instrument-free diagnostics for global health: let the physics and chemistry do the hard work

12:30 – 1:30pm, Foege N130A (Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room)

Talk Abstract

A key future challenge in bioengineering will be to improve access to healthcare for the world’s poorest populations. Fortunately, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other high profile groups have raised awareness of global health needs, and traditional funding agencies including NIH and DOD are now supporting projects with direct or tangential benefit to global health. Beyond alleviating suffering, the global economic burden and the increasing threat of transmitting disease across borders drive incentive for investment. Similar challenges exist in the US, where healthcare costs have risen to unsustainable levels, and the same technologies can serve to increase access to healthcare and reduce costs. As a contribution to improving global health and reducing healthcare costs, my research focuses on point-of-care medical diagnostics for this new world, be it a satellite clinic in Seattle or a makeshift health camp in sub-Saharan Africa. The extraordinary constraints of low-resource settings – limited training, unreliable electricity, uncontrolled environment, limited patient-provider contact time – require awareness of non-technical obstacles and creative solutions that meet these constraints. Our approach is to create simple instrument-free diagnostics with high performance by relying on the device physics and assay chemistry to do the hard work. Here, I present projects in cell-phone-controlled diagnostics, HIV immunoassays, and HIV drug resistance tests that demonstrate how simple principles can be manipulated to create new diagnostics, and I discuss the broader challenges and opportunities in technology for global health.


Dr. Lutz received his BS from the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Chemical Engineering where he researched basic catalytic reactions on single crystal metal surfaces. He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington under Professor Dan Schwartz, where he studied sound-driven flows in microfluidic devices for chemical reaction analysis and cell manipulation. As a postdoctoral researcher under a UW Genome Sciences Training Grant Fellowship, he worked in the Microscale Life Sciences Center with UW Professors Deirdre Meldrum and Mary Lidstrom to develop methods for analysis of single cell behavior. He was a Senior Scientist in the Intel Biomedical and Life Sciences Group working on-site at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to develop multiplexed tissue imaging using Raman nanoparticle probes. He then returned to the University of Washington to work with Professor Paul Yager on a large project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a point of care diagnostic system for the developing world. He is now a Research Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at UW developing rapid diagnostic devices for global health and domestic health applications. He is co-investigator on large multi-institutional projects with Professors Paul Yager and Elain Fu, and has independent projects in cell-phone-controlled diagnostics, HIV drug resistance testing, and multiplexed nucleic acid tests. He is also co-founder of Aqueduct Neurosciences, a UW spinout company developing devices to treat brain drainage disorders.