American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
February 2013 Mentor of the Month: Hashem Akhavan-Tafti
Hashem Akhavan-Tafti

Dr. Hashem Akhavan-Tafti is vice president of Research for Beckman Coulter's Immunoassay & Molecular Diagnostics Business Group. Dr. Akhavan-Tafti manages a team of research scientists in the discovery of innovative detection technologies for clinical and life science research laboratories.

Several of Dr. Akhavan-Tafti's inventions have had a profound impact on the field of chemiluminescence. He is the primary inventor and holder of over 70 United States patents and over 100 international patents related to chemiluminescent substrates used in medical diagnostic assays.

More specifically, the substrates now comprise a line of products used worldwide in automated systems for the chemiluminescent detection of alkaline phosphatase conjugates and in ultrasensitive assays in the fields of life science research and human identity testing. More than a billion tests are conducted annually using these substrates to improve human health and patient care.

Dr. Akhavan-Tafti's professional career began in 1989 when he joined Lumigen, Inc., as a senior research scientist and he has since continued with the organization in various positions of increasing responsibility. When Lumigen was acquired by Beckman Coulter, Inc. in 2006, he remained with the company and continues to manage a team of research scientists.

Dr. Akhavan-Tafti and his team have developed novel chemiluminescent compounds and improved methods for the chemiluminescent detection of enzymes and enzyme conjugates. Additionally, he and his team have refined methods for chemiluminescent enhancement; developed applications for DNA and protein detection using chemiluminescence; and have developed methods for nucleic acid purification. Dr. Akhavan-Tafti played a key role in the invention of multiple commercial products for the chemiluminescent detection of alkaline phosphatase and horseradish peroxidase. These developments were also instrumental in the growth of Lumigen leading up to its acquisition by Beckman Coulter.

Many commercialized or announced in-development products at Beckman Coulter utilize patented advances in chemiluminescence developed under the direction of Dr. Akhavan-Tafti. Significant examples include:

  • Lumigen PPD, Lumi-Phos 530 and Lumigen APS-5 enzyme substrates have been selected as detection chemistries for regulated clinical diagnostic assays used worldwide by leading instrument manufacturers.
  • Lumigen PS-3 and Lumigen TMA-6, two proprietary chemiluminescent and fluorescent reagents. One widely used application is a confirmatory test used to diagnose HIV/AIDS.
  • SPARCL, an innovative no-wash immunoassay technology, offers significant time savings and simplification for High Throughput Screening (HTS) and general life science research.
  • SNAP, a novel nucleic acid isolation chemistry that will be featured on Beckman Coulter's fully automated molecular diagnostics system, the UniCel DxN*, which is expected to help accelerate the migration of molecular diagnostic testing to hospital laboratories by bringing these high-cost, labor-intensive and complex tests in-house.

Originally from Iran, Dr. Akhavan-Tafti came to the United States after high school. He holds a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Kalamazoo College, a master's degree in Organic Chemistry from Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Wayne State University. He trained under Dr. A.P. Schaap, now retired, who was instrumental in the development of chemiluminescent technologies as a professor at Wayne State University, and who subsequently founded Lumigen in 1987.

Dr. Akhavan-Tafti is a member of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Association for Molecular Pathology, the Clinical Ligand Assay Society, the International Society for Bioluminescence and Chemiluminescence and the Society for Biomolecular Screening.

* In development.
Beckman Coulter, the stylized logo and UniCel are trademarks of Beckman Coulter, Inc., and are registered in the USPTO. Lumigen and Lumi-Phos are trademarks of Lumigen, Inc., and are registered in the USPTO.