Graduate Division

Diagnosing Illness within the Comfort of Home

Electrochemical biosensors that detect early signifiers for at-risk cancer patients

Alana Ogata


What if we could diagnose illnesses ourselves, in the comfort of our own homes? UCI’s 2018 Grad Slam champion, Alana Ogata, is trying to make this a possibility for cancer diagnosis. The Chemistry Ph.D. student presented her research, entitled “Electrochemical Biosensors for Point-of-Care Diagnostics,” to win this year’s UCI Grad Slam campus finals. She’ll go on to represent our campus in the UC system-wide finals on May 3rd in San Francisco.

Alana wants to make cancer testing available to everyone. She’s working towards this goal by developing a biosensor that can detect the presence of cancer at its earliest stage. Through her collaboration with biochemistry labs at UCI and a start-up company, Phage Tech Inc., Alana is developing a cancer sensor that can be easily used at home.

“The goal is to bring cancer diagnostics into the hands of the average person,” she says.  “The earlier you catch cancer, the more curable it is. Right now, most of us do not have easy access to routine cancer testing, which is the best way to get an early diagnosis.”

The electronic biosensor in development will be able to detect the protein count within an individual and analyze whether or not he or she has an “at risk level” of protein within their urine. A person with an “at risk level” of proteins would be the result of an abnormally higher count of protein within their urine sample.

Alana’s research will be immensely important for the future of cancer research and diagnosis, as it can help detect early signifiers of cancer, within the comfort of home and with the same ease and discreetness of a pregnancy test. Early detection would help get these individuals the appropriate care they would need in order to cure and control the cancer from spreading.

The secret to her success is to put into practice a well-rounded life.  Alana plans her day to a T in order to accommodate a balance of work, leisure, fitness, the outdoors and cooking.

“I always balance stressful periods of overworking with a short period of doing absolutely nothing or a mini vacation,” she says.  “This balance helps to prevent me from getting burnt out.”

 As an advocate for collaboration, Alana hopes to continue the remainder of her time at UCI to foster and initiate as many collaborative projects as possible, to her those environments are the most productive for imagining solutions for the future. Ultimately, she hopes to eventually develop her own start-up to make accessible point-of-care systems of testing for the everyday consumer.