In 2016, Dr Pola Goldberg Oppenheimer, Reader (Associate Professor), in Microengineering and Bionanotechnoly at the University of Birmingham, was awarded a Research Fellowship by the Academy. These five-year fellowships provide support for some of the UK’s top postdoctoral engineering researchers, enabling them to develop their areas of academic research.
Dr Goldberg Oppenheimer is Head of the Advanced Nano Materials, Structures and Applications Group at the University of Birmingham. The Group designs and creates new micro- and nano-structured surfaces that can be used for a range of miniaturised applications, including bio-medical ones.
Some of its main research efforts are focused on detecting traumatic brain injury at the point of care. A major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide is through head trauma, a condition that is extremely hard to diagnose at the point of injury. A patient can seem fine, converse well and then suffer serious consequences later.
Dr Goldberg Oppenheimer’s team created the first finger-prick blood test for brain damage using high-sensitive and specificity sensors. These can detect disease-indicative biomarkers at trace-level concentrations in the blood. Now she is working on portable technology that will combine these smart sensors into spectroscopic lab-on-a-chip devices that can be used at point-of-care.
Having demonstrated the technology’s feasibility through proof-of-concept research and the filing of a technology patent, Dr Goldberg Oppenheimer’s team will now start optimising and integrating the developed technology. The work could result in delivering timely intervention and organised trauma care to millions. It could decelerate patients’ cognitive decline, it could save millions for healthcare systems through unnecessary hospital stays, and most importantly, it could save thousands of lives.