Public Release:  Keck Foundation award for biomedical imaging

$1M grant will support research in new techniques

University of California - Davis

The W.M. Keck Foundation's Medical Research Program has presented a grant for $1 million to Angelique Louie, a professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering. The grant will help fund her project "In Vivo 3D Imaging Using Bioluminescent Gene Reporters and MRI," which she is undertaking in collaboration with Yohei Yokobayashi, an associate professor also in the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Jared Shaw, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry.

"The project proposes novel technology that will facilitate the detection of gene expression in deep, opaque tissues," Louie explained. "With such technology, we'll be able to apply the power of noninvasive imaging to myriad new biomedical applications."

"We're grateful for the Keck Foundation's support," said Enrique J. Lavernia, dean of the UC Davis College of Engineering. "The advancement of cutting-edge technology requires our researchers to push the envelope: to take risks and try new approaches. Such daring often won't be embraced by government funders or foundations, and I applaud the Keck Foundation for its devotion to bold ventures that can have a positive impact on the entire world."

"I'm equally thankful for the Keck Foundation's appreciation for high-risk, innovative research," Louie echoed. "This funding will play a significant role in providing personnel and resources that will be crucial to the success of our project."

Louie earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at UC Davis, and then developed an affinity for biomedical applications while studying fiber optics during her master's degree work at UCLA. She obtained a doctorate in 1994 at UC Irvine's Beckman Laser Institute, where she concentrated on the biomedical side of optical imaging with lasers. Post-doc studies took place at Cal Tech, where she worked in imaging and the development of enzymes inhibitors; this led to a project involving the creation of contrast agents for imaging.

Louie then investigated academic options and quickly became intrigued by the new, up-and-coming imaging department at UC Davis. She joined the College of Engineering's Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2002, which has proven to be an excellent fit.

She has continued her work with imaging techniques and the design of probes to characterize molecular phenomena in diseased and normal states, with the goal of helping clinicians better understand what causes -- and how to prevent -- cardiovascular disease, retinal degeneration and tumor formation. She's particularly interested in the monitoring of heart disease, in order to detect vulnerable arterial plaques at risk for rupture before they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Outside the lab, Louie is director of the UC Davis Beckman Scholars Program, which stimulates, encourages and supports research activities by exceptionally talented undergraduate students in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, and the biological and medical sciences. She also is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and she recently completed a term as an elected member of the board of directors for the Biomedical Engineering Society.

The Keck Foundation grant is part of the university's first comprehensive fundraising campaign -- The Campaign for UC Davis -- which has raised $1.071 billion from 106,184 donors and is scheduled to conclude on May 31, 2014.

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The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. Keck envisioned a philanthropic institution that would provide far-reaching benefits for humanity, with a mandate to encourage pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research. In the area of education, the foundation also supports undergraduate programs that promote inventive approaches to instruction and the effective involvement of students in research.

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