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Mohit Verma named University Faculty Scholar for research in biosensors and microbiome

Mohit Verma, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, has been honored as a 2024 University Faculty Scholar for his work in leveraging biological engineering to tackle critical societal challenges. This recognition not only celebrates Verma’s contributions to Purdue University, but also acknowledges his accelerated path toward academic distinction in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.

Verma credits his undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and research assistants who have worked in his lab over the past six years, saying their dedication and collaboration have been instrumental to the success of the Verma Lab.

“Everyone brings such a unique and exciting perspective, as well as diverse training to the lab. It’s thanks to them that we’re able to do the research that we do,” said Verma.

With his PhD in nanotechnology engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada, Verma has been able to foster interdisciplinary collaborations with various departments in the College of Agriculture and across Purdue

“About 50% of our research focuses on our areas of expertise and the remaining 50% is collaborative, helping us go beyond what we can do alone,” explained Verma. “This collaborative approach has been pivotal to the success of our lab.”

Verma’s current research concentrates on the utilization of biological engineering tools to address agricultural challenges, with a particular focus on the development of biosensors capable of detecting nucleic acids. These biosensors hold potential for diverse applications that can be completed without lab-based equipment.

“In addition to advancing animal health diagnostics, we’ve also started exploring other applications of the same technology, such as developing tools for food safety risk management, as DNA and RNA are versatile molecules to work with,” expressed Verma.

Our ultimate goal is to take these technologies and turn them into tangible products for commercialization.” -Mohit Verma

Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship, Verma has established Krishi Inc., a Purdue-affiliated startup that is developing devices to identify effective antibiotics for treating infections in companion animals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Verma played a key role in developing a rapid and scalable testing technology using saliva samples.

Reflecting on this achievement, Verma underscores the importance of timely innovation when addressing societal needs. “Developing the tests for COVID-19 was a task that would have taken several years, but because of what we were already working on, it took just a few months.”

Mohit Verma in an ABE lab holding a prototype for a low-cost test to diagnose COVID-19 in animals. Mohit Verma in an ABE lab holding a prototype for a low-cost test to diagnose COVID-19 in animals.

Looking ahead, Verma hopes his lab can establish a “One Health” approach, where the interconnectedness of animals, plants, the environment and humans are recognized and addressed comprehensively.

“You can’t really look at one facet independently – it’s a complex system,” Verma noted.

Through our research, I’m excited to use our tools to create an understanding of how each factor works and their influences on overall health.” -Mohit Verma

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