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WCU gets grant to study mosquitoes

The grant will go toward developing tools that  utilize spectroscopy to anaylze vibrational signals from mosquitos. Donated photo The grant will go toward developing tools that utilize spectroscopy to anaylze vibrational signals from mosquitos. Donated photo

Brian Byrd, Western Carolina University’s mosquito expert and professor in the environmental health sciences program, along with Scott Huffman, professor in WCU’s Department of Chemistry and Physics, have been approved for grant funding from NCInnovation to continue their work in developing tools that utilizes spectroscopy to analyze vibrational signals from mosquitoes. 

“Using spectroscopy, we are developing tools that analyze chemical signals from mosquitoes to tell us the species, sex, age of the mosquitoes and if they are infected,” Byrd said. “Using our approach, we can rapidly assess the risk of infection in the Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever and Zika. There is a similar Aedes mosquito in Western North Carolina that transmits La Crosse virus causing encephalitis in children every year, so this tool gives us a platform to improve risk assessments and opportunities to reduce human disease.”

Currently it takes days or weeks to conduct this type of risk assessment, but the approach Byrd and Huffman are developing will make the work much quicker and more efficient.

The grant approval is conditioned on standard next steps, including executed grant agreements and formal notification to government partners. The funding is part of NCInnovation’s larger mission to unlock the innovative potential of North Carolina’s world-class universities.

NCInnovation helps university innovations advance towards commercialization by supporting university applied research through the critical R&D phase between proof concept and readiness for the private market.

The grant funding approved for Byrd is part of NCInnovation’s larger effort to support the development and commercialization of university research in North Carolina. The campus-to-industry pipeline has been the foundation of American innovation for decades. For more information, visit ncinnovation.org.

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