(photo credit: Courtesy )
A Christian Arab researcher originally from Nazareth who is a leading chemical engineer at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has won the largest grant ever given by the European Union to an Israeli scientist - â‚¬1.75 million - to develop an "electronic nose" to sniff out cancer.
Dr. Hossam Haiek, 31, a Haifa resident and a researcher at the Technion's chemical engineering faculty and its Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, will set up a new lab and hire researchers from Israel and abroad to develop the diagnostic device. The team's first goal will be "sniffing out" lung cancer.
Haiek aims to develop tiny, nanometric sensors that can detect various types of tumors and determine the stage of the disease. Using samples from a patient's breath, it is hoped that diseases will be diagnosed in the early stages, even before they begin to spread. Treatment would then be given immediately to destroy the cancerous cells before they have the chance to kill.
The grant, named for the late Nobel Prize laureate Marie Curie, was awarded to Haiek under a program to encourage promising young scientists. He completed his doctorate at the Technion and went to the California Institute of Technology for post-doctoral research. Then he returned to Haifa and was recently named a senior lecturer.
Haiek spent his time in California developing electric devices based on nanotech materials and electronic "noses." Other Caltech researchers have been working on producing electronic detectors for NASA spacecraft.
The European Union funding, together with money he will receive from the Technion's Russell Berrie institute, will allow the establishment of a lab and the purchase of more than $1m. in equipment. Since the news of his award was announced, Haiek has received numerous requests from Israel and overseas to join his project.
Prof. Moshe Eisenberg, the Technion's vice president for research, congratulated Haiek for receiving the unusual award. "The European Union received hundreds of grant proposals and chose only 29 recipients, and Dr. Haiek is the only Israeli to receive this grant so far. It is a significant achievement, and I am sure the research he leads will be at the highest level and achieve applicable results," Eisenberg said.