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David W. Wright

Title and Contact Information

Stevenson Professor

Director of Laboratories for Innovations in Global Health Technologies (LIGHT)

Office: 7861 SC
Phone: (615) 322-2636


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1994


Nanomaterials Chemistry
Mass Spectrometry
Materials Chemistry
Inorganic Chemistry
Chemical Biology
Bioinorganic Chemistry
Bioanalytical Chemistry

In the News

Vanderbilt News- Vanderbilt University receives $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Innovative Global Health Research

Kavli Fellow for 2011- Kavli/National Academy of Sciences Frontiers in Science Symposia

Research News @ Vanderbilt- David Wright (Chemistry) with Rick Haselton (Biomedical Engineering) and Ray Mernaugh (Biochemistry) supproted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop low resource diagnostics for the developing world

Arts and Science- Nothing to Sneeze At

Research News @ Vanderbilt- Professor David Wright has been elected as an AAAS Fellow



Our research employs inorganic chemistry, nanotechnology, and material science to solve real world problems.  Students in the Wright group receive broad training in synthesis, physical methods, assay development, and biological systems. Our current interests lie in three areas:

  1. Re-imagining diagnostic tests for low resource environments
  2. Heme homeostasis in the malaria parasite, plasmodium falciparum
  3. Development of bioinspired routes for the synthesis of functional materials and devices

Low Resource Diagnostics

Lateral flow assays are one of the most common, simple and rapid formats for diagnostic tests. Unfortunately, many of them are simple not sensitive or specific enough to diagnose infections in the early stages when treatment is most effective. Our research group is asking the question: What are the approaches that could be used to make such tests 100-10,000 times more sensitive?

  • Integration of effective sample concentration strategies to increase the delivery of biomarker target to the test.
  • Development and characterization of improved molecular recognition elements for increased test specificity.
  • Novel functionalized materials and strategies to control, direct, and optimize the fluid flow on the test.
  • New amplification strategies for improved sensitivity.

Heme Homeostasis in Malaria

Over 40% of the world’s population is at risk from malaria. During an infection, the malaria parasite consumes vast quantities of the human host’s hemoglobin, releasing toxic free heme. We are interested in understanding how the parasite detoxifies this heme burden, discovering news probes to identify potential drug mechanisms and targets, and developing new tools to understand drug mode of actions. Projects include:

  • High throughput assay development, screening, and probe development.
  • Molecular tools to investigate the fate of heme load in parasites under drug stress and understand drug mechanism of action.
  • Mass spectrometry tools to investigate metabolomics wide changes in parasite biochemistry under drug treatment.

Biomolecular Materials

Biomineralization results in an expansive array of complex materials ranging from laminate composites and ceramics such as bones, teeth, and shells to magnetic materials such as the forms of magnetite found in magnetobacteria. But nowhere in Nature is the complex dance of metal ion homesostasis, hierarchical materials, and form and function as instructive to the material science as in the glass shell of the diatoms and sponges. We seek to understand and harness Nature’s own processes to design technologically important materials and devices.

  • Development of high-throughput screens to identify small molecule modulators of diatom shell geometry.
  • Enzyme catalyzed formation of metal oxides.
  • Bio-lithography approaches to the creation of three dimensional nanoscale structures.

Selected Publications

Adams NM, Bordelon H, Wang KK, Albert LE, Wright DW, Haselton FR. Comparison of three magnetic bead surface functionalities for RNA extraction and detection. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2015, 7(11):6062-9.

Schrimpe-Rutledge AC, Fong KY, Wright DW. Impact of 4-hydroxynonenal on matrix metalloproteinase-9 regulation in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7 cells. Cell Biochemistry and Fun c tion. 2015, 33(2):59-66.

Gulka CP, Swartz JD, Wright DW. Ni(II)NTA AuNPs as a low-resource malarial diagnostic platform for the rapid colorimetric detection of Plasmodium falciparum Histidine-Rich Protein-2. Talanta. 2015, 135:94-101.

Sandlin RD, Fong KY, Wicht KJ, Carrell HM, Egan TJ, Wright DW. Identification of β-hematin inhibitors in a high-throughput screening effort reveals scaffolds with in vitro antimalarial activity. International Journal for Parasitology. Drugs Drug Resist. 2014, 4(3):316-25.

Gulka CP, Swartz JD, Trantum JR, Davis KM, Peak CM, Denton AJ, Haselton FR, Wright DW. Coffee rings as low-resource diagnostics: detection of the malaria biomarker Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein-II using a surface-coupled ring of Ni(II)NTA gold-plated polystyrene particles. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. 2014, 6(9):6257-63.

Adams NM, Wang KK, Caprioli AC, Thomas LC, Kankia B, Haselton FR, Wright DW. Quadruplex priming amplification for the detection of mRNA from surrogate patient samples. Analyst. 2014, 139 (7): 1644-52.

Jackson SR, McBride JR, Rosenthal SJ, Wright DW. Where's the Silver? Imaging Trace Silver Coverage on the Surface of Gold Nanorods. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2014, 0 (0): [Epub ahead of print].

Davis KM, Bitting AL, Wright DW. On-particle detection of Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein II by a "switch-on" iridium(III) probe. Analytical Biochemistry. 2013, 445 (0): 60-66.

Warnick KH, Wang B, Ciffel DE, Wright DW, Haglund RF, Pantelides ST. Room-Temperature Reactions for Self-Cleaning Molecular Nanosensors. NANO Letters. 2013, 13 (2): 798-802.

Davis KM, Swartz JD, Haselton FR, Wright DW. Low-Resource Method for Extracting the Malarial Biomarker Histidine-Rich Protein II To Enhance Diagnostic Test Performance. Analytical Chemistry. 2012, 84 (14): 6136-6142.

Harry RS, Hiatt LA, Kimmel DW, Carney CK, Halfpenny KC, Cliffel DE, Wright DW. Metabolic Impact of 4-Hydroxynonenal on Macrophage-Like RAW 264.7 Function and Activation. Chemical Reserach in Toxicology. 2012, 25 (8): 1643-1651.

Hiatt LA, McKenzie JR, Deravi LF, Harry RS, Wright DW, Cliffel DE. A printed superoxide dismutase coated electrode for the study of macrophage oxidative burst. Biosensors & Bioelectronics. 2012, 33 (1): 128-133.

Adams NM, Jackson SR, Haselton FR, Wright DW. Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of Nucleic-Acid-Functionalized Gold Surfaces for Biomarker Detection. Langmuir. 2012, 28 (2): 1068-1082.

Trantum JR, Wright DW, Haselton FR. Biomarker-Mediated Disruption of Coffee-Ring Formation as a Low Resource Diagnostic Indicator. Langmuir. 2012, 28 (4): 2187-2193.

Rock MT, McKinney BA, Yoder SM, Prudom CE, Wright DW, Crowe JE. Identification of potential human respiratory syncytial virus and metapneumovirus T cell epitopes using computational prediction and MHC binding assays. Journal of Immunological Methods. 2011, 374 (1-2): 13-17.

Sandlin RD, Carter MD, Lee PJ, Auschwitz JM, Leed SE, Johnson JD, Wright DW. Use of the NP-40 Detergent-Mediated Assay in Discovery of Inhibitors of beta-Hematin Crystallization. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 2011, 55 (7): 3363-3369.

Bordelon H, Adams NM, Klemm AS, Russ PK, Williams JV, Talbot HK, Wright DW, Haselton FR. Development of a Low-Resource RNA Extraction Cassette Based on Surface Tension Valves. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. 2011, 3(6): 2161-2168.

Miller SA, Hiatt LA, Keil RG, Cliffel DE, Wright DW. Multifunctional nanoparticles as simulants for a gravimetric immunoassay. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 2011, 399 (3): 1021-1029.