Penn clinical chemist wins prestigious Ullman Award

Novel uses of light and miniaturization pioneered by Dr. Larry Kricka

Dr. Larry Kricka, Director of General Chemistry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, has been named the winner of the 2006 Edwin F. Ullman Award. The award recognizes an individual (or individuals) for contributions that advance the technology of clinical laboratory sciences through the creation of new technologies and analytical methods. In July, Dr. Kricka will be presented with the Ullman Award at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry's (AACC) annual meeting in Chicago.

Although the award is given for a scientist's body of work, two of Kricka's efforts, in particular, have had a profound beneficla effect on the field of laboratory medicine. The first is his application of chemiluminescence and bioluminescence to clinical analysis. He was instrumental in the development of two of the three major chemiluminescent technologies currently used in routine testing, including an enhanced luminescence system for peroxidase labels and the 1,2-dioxetane substrate, now widely used to detect alkaline phosphatase labels and other hydrolytic enzymes. He has also played an important role in adapting chemiluminescent and bioluminescent assays to point-of-care testing.

His second defining work, in collaboration with Dr. Peter Wilding, PhD, is with miniaturization – specifically, analytical microchips. Dr. Kricka played a critical role in the development of micro-fabricated clinical analysis devices and devices that isolate cells, analyze DNA, test for fertility, assist in vitro fertilization, immunoassay testing for drugs and hormones, and integrate tests for malignancy. These miniaturization techniques have pioneered a field of testing based in silicon-glass and plastic micro-structures and resulted in the first demonstration of numerous analytically useful processes in microchips, including immunoassay, assessment of sperm motility, and DNA amplification. Today many laboratories and companies have research and development programs based on Kricka's discoveries.

"What we wanted to do was miniaturize and simplify testing," said Kricka. "These chips can be used at the point-of-care in a doctor's office or in the field for bio-terrorism tests, which is one of the main ways they are being used. There are a lot of potential uses for them."

Although Dr. Kricka has received many awards during his 19 years at HUP, this one holds special significance because someone else nominated him, anonymously. "I am very pleased to win," he said. "I didn't even know I was nominated for it. It was a total surprise. Actually, the president of the AACC called me and I thought he was calling to ask me to do some work for the AACC. Instead he was calling me to tell me I won the prize."

Along with an extensive patent portfolio, Kricka is also one of the founders of the Micro and Nanotechnology Center established within the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at HUP.

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The award, sponsored by Dade Behring Inc., is named in honor of Edwin F. Ullman, a pioneer in immunoassay technology who has received more than 150 U.S. patents.

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