Professor recognized for work in disease-detection

Growing up in the small town of Jonesboro in southern Illinois, professor Ryan C. Bailey was always in the presence of science.

“You might say that chemistry chose me,” Bailey said. His father was his high school chemistry and physics teacher, and he recalls science being a reoccurring topic at the dinner table. Popular science magazines were always lying around the house.

Bailey became an associate professor of chemistry at the University to pursue his own research interests and to assist future scientists in their academia through both research and teaching.

“Illinois is not only a great University, but growing up it was my state school and I am honored to be on the faculty training the next generation of Illinois-born scientists,” he said.

His lab here at the University generally works in the areas of bioanalytical and biomaterials chemistry.

“Our overall goal is to develop new diagnostics tests for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease that can better detect the disease before there are symptoms, and/or more accurately inform clinicians on how to best treat the disease,” Bailey said.

They also currently have an active program that is trying to make biocompatible materials that may be used in regenerative medicine applications. This involves the repairing and replacement of living cells, or tissue engineering.

Bailey’s perseverance and passion for science has not only assisted his fellow colleagues and students, but has recently been recognized on a broader scale. He has been chosen as one of the world’s top young innovators by the Technology Review, a bimonthly magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for his research in bioanalytical and biomaterials chemistry.

According to the Technology Review, Bailey’s accomplishments range from “a silicon testing chip that fuses optical sensor technology with semiconductor fabrication methods,” to launching a company called Genalyte which “recently introduced its first diagnostic assay for connective-tissue autoimmune diseases, with a focus on lupus.”

Bailey finds this prestigious acknowledgement to be “a tremendous honor, and the fact that two chemists from Illinois (Prashant Jain) were recognized is really a great achievement for our department and campus.”

Ironically, as an undergraduate, Bailey did not find biological studies to be especially appealing. However, he said he came to the realization that the future of medicine lies just as much in diagnostics as it does in the development of new pharmaceuticals. He added that although newly discovered drugs usually gain the most fame from the media, the most challenging step in biological studies is trying to predict in advance which patients are most likely to respond to a particular treatment regimen.

“This really is an exciting time to be a frontline researcher and I think the landscape of biomedicine will radically change in the next 10 to 15 years as a result of breakthroughs in diagnostics,” Bailey said.

This chemist also maintains a “wonderful” life outside the world of chemistry which includes his “beautiful wife and two energetic boys.” And just like any true Illini fan, “a genetically-linked aversion to Hawkeyes and Hoosiers!”

_Christen can be reached at [email protected]_