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Tests that detect biomarkers might sound high tech or expensive, but they’re as close as your local drugstore: “Pregnancy tests, diabetes test strips—they sense a biological marker and let you know it’s there and how much,” said Peter B. Berget, PhD, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at University of the Sciences.

Dr. Berget’s research works with biosensors that are much smaller: he is creating novel biosensors that glow in the presence of specific enzymes and other signaling molecules in living cells.

“This is about as exciting as I’ve always wanted science to be,” said Dr. Berget, who came to USciences from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

With a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Berget is isolating and engineering biosensors from molecules called Fluorogen Activating Proteins. He is also engineering the biosensor genes that would make it easier to produce the biosensors in large quantities.

“Our modular platform makes it easy to build new biosensors. It’s sort of like a LEGO® set—the various gene parts are interchangeable.” The protease technology that was invented in the Berget lab has been licensed to Enzium, a new Pennsylvania-based biotech company that is currently considering Philadelphia as a possible home.

“This commercial interest will stimulate a big push to make many new biosensors very quickly,” said Dr. Berget.