University of Toronto Mississauga analytical chemist Alana Ogata is one of five recipients of the prestigious 2022 John Charles Polanyi Prize, which recognizes outstanding researchers in the early stages of their career.
An assistant professor in the department of chemical and physical sciences, Ogata is developing bioanalytical technologies that can help diagnose diseases sooner and lead to better treatment and outcomes. This includes investigating bioinspired nanomaterials – synthetic substances that can mimic the structure, properties or functions of living matter – for medical purposes and developing more effective diagnostics to detect biomarkers, such as proteins, in bodily fluids.
Bioinspired nanomaterials can enhance or replace biological reagents, including antibodies and enzymes, used in conventional liquid-biopsy methods, but there are currently significant limits to their implementation. Ogata investigates the formation-structure-function of synthetic crystals that mimic the function of particular enzymes and aims to develop new enzyme-mimic bioinspired nanomaterials to help advance liquid-biopsy technologies.
The Polanyi Prize is awarded each year to as many as five researchers from an Ontario university in the early stages of their career. Given by the Ontario Council of Universities, it is named in honour of John Polanyi, a University Professor Emeritus in the department of chemistry and recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize. This year, all five prizes were awarded to faculty from U of T.