Chicago-Based Cancer Imaging Team Wins Illinois Tech’s $1 Million Nayar Prize Competition

The ADEPT Cancer Imager team is led by Illinois Tech associate professors Kenneth Tichauer [left] and Jovan Brankov.
Olivia Dimmer-

The ADEPT team’s breakthrough in screening technology will allow pathologists to detect smaller tumors and prescribe precise treatment

Chicago – February 6, 2019 – Illinois Institute of Technology today announced that a cancer imaging research team is the winner of the final round of the university’s Nayar Prize, which includes a $500,000 personal award to team members.

Watch the video featuring the winning team and its research.

Including previous rounds, this brings the total amount won by this and other teams in the first Nayar Prize competition to $1 million.

The team of Kenneth Tichauer, Illinois Tech associate professor of biomedical engineering; and Jovan Brankov, Illinois Tech associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and of biomedical engineering, and director of the Advanced X-ray Imaging Laboratory, developed the Agent-Dependent Early Photon Tomography Cancer Imager with the specific goal of finding tumors in lymph nodes of breast cancer patients at earlier stages. Their novel two-step dyeing process and advanced laser imaging system will allow pathologists to find tumors that are 10 times smaller than those found using conventional methods.

The ADEPT System Cancer Imager dyes the entire lymph node, as opposed to a small sample. The combination of the special dyeing process and camera improvements provides a sharper picture of the tissue sample at the molecular level. The result is a system that allows pathologists to find smaller tumors and prescribe a precise and personalized drug treatment for the patient. Team members estimate 40,000 more women will be properly diagnosed annually using the ADEPT imager.

“The ADEPT project exemplifies how interdisciplinary collaboration at Illinois Tech can solve complex problems and make a meaningful impact on society,” said Peter Kilpatrick, provost of Illinois Tech. “This laudable work has the potential to offer breast cancer patients a much better chance at recovery and a longer life. It is a heartwarming example of how the positive application of science and technology can be used to improve the lives of our fellow citizens.”

The team is planning a clinical trial of the ADEPT system, in a partnership with Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the University of Chicago Department of Pathology.

“Our vision for the ADEPT system is for it to become an essential tool in every hospital’s cancer pathology lab and throughout the drug-development labs of every pharmaceutical company and academic medical center,” Tichauer said. “This will prolong the lives of cancer patients and improve their quality of life by identifying cancer early and by enabling life-saving drugs to be brought to market.”

The ADEPT Cancer Imager team was selected as one of three finalists for the inaugural Nayar Prize when the competition was announced in 2015, earning $100,000 to continue its research. It was selected from that pool as the sole Phase 2 finalist, earning an additional $200,000 for further research. The team members can use the final, personal $500,000 award at their discretion with no restrictions.

Also announced today was the Phase 3 finalist for Nayar Prize II, a second award competition launched in 2016. The team working on the Data-Driven Crime Prevention Program was awarded $100,000 to continue its research on data analysis with the Elgin Police Department, which includes a legal-ethical framework that respects individual rights. Team members include Miles Wernick, Motorola Endowed Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, director of the Medical Imaging Research Center, and professor of biomedical engineering; Lori Andrews, Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the Institute for Science, Law, and Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law; and Yongyi Yang, Harris Perlstein Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering.

Illinois Tech trustee and alumnus Madhavan Nayar (M.S. IE ’68) and his wife, Teresa, established the awards on behalf of the Nayar Family Foundation to recognize the problem-solving capabilities of the university’s faculty, students, and staff and to help move the needle toward significant innovations impacting society, the economy, and our environment.

For more information about the Nayar Prize, visit


ABOUT ILLINOIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is a private, technology-focused research university. Illinois Tech is the only university of its kind in Chicago, and its Chicago location offers students access to the world-class resources of a great global metropolis. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, science, architecture, business, design, human sciences, applied technology, and law. One of 21 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU), Illinois Tech provides an exceptional education centered on active learning, and its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Illinois Tech uniquely prepares students to succeed in professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Visit