Jayant selected for NIH Director's New Innovation Award

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Krishna Jayant, assistant professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, was selected for a prestigious award created to reward and encourage young researchers.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Oct. 3 that Krishna Jayant, assistant professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, was selected for a prestigious award created to reward and encourage young researchers. 

Jayant was selected for the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (NIA), part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program that, according to its website, supports “exceptionally creative early career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects in the biomedical, behavioral or social sciences within the NIH mission.”

Krishna Jayant
Krishna Jayant, an assistant professor who leads the Nano Neurotechnology Lab in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering

NIA identifies scientists with "ideas that may be risky or at a stage too early to fare well in the traditional peer review process. The program encourages creative, outside-the-box thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas in any area of biomedical, behavioral or social science research relevant to the NIH mission," its website says.

The award comes with a $1.5 million direct grant, which Jayant’s team will use to expand work on its patent-pending, multi-modal mapping innovation — the NET 2P — a multi-depth 3D transparent electrode array integrated onto a head-mounted two-photon microscope.

“Areas it can immediately impact are sleep-related disorders, neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism,” Jayant said.

Traditional methods of monitoring critical brain functions like perceptions, actions and memories can be challenging as the lab animal must be restrained.

"This configuration precludes an accurate estimate of behavioral effects on circuits and circuit effects on behaviors," Jayant said. 

The NET 2P is a first-of-its-kind tool to relate cellular-level activity patterns to ongoing LFP (local field potential) waves in active, freely moving animal research models.

“Our study will not only lead to a new scientific understanding of sensory processing, but also unleashes new avenues of exploration into therapeutic intervention and future artificially intelligent systems,” Jayant said.

Jayant, who leads the Nano Neurotechnology Lab, is the third Purdue faculty member to receive the award, which was introduced in 2007. Natalia Rodriguez, assistant professor in the Purdue University Department of Public Health who holds a courtesy appointment in BME, also was a 2023 recipient. The first was Sarah Calve, now an adjunct professor in BME, in 2017.

“This award is extremely important and is possibly the highest honor an early-stage researcher can get. It’s a testament to the creativity, ingenuity and impact that underlies the science and research undertaken in my lab,” Jayant said.

He will accept the award at the High-Risk, High-Reward Research Symposium in June 2024 in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It will definitely open doors for me professionally,” Jayant said. “The hope is that it will catalyze widespread collaboration with both national and international groups, improve my laboratory’s research visibility within the NIH, DOD and other funding sources and also boost and further elevate the status of Purdue BME and Purdue neuroengineering nationally and internationally.”

Since joining the Purdue Engineering faculty in 2019, Jayant said the Weldon School and its partnership with the Purdue Institute of Integrative Neuroscience have been pivotal in his flourishing research.

“The climate in general is extremely ripe for innovation, and the message I received very early in my career was to be bold and fearless,” Jayant said. “It cannot be stated enough how important senior faculty and mentors are, and I am fortunate to be working alongside the very best at Purdue.”

Jayant disclosed the innovation to the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization, which has applied for a patent to protect the intellectual property. Industry partners interested in developing and commercializing the innovation should contact Patrick Finnerty, senior business development and licensing manager in life sciences, at pwfinnerty@prf.org about technology number 70445.