Saurabh Mehta

Saurabh Mehta, International Faculty Fellow

Saurabh Mehta
Saurabh Mehta

"My research focuses on improving population health through early detection, diagnosis, and intervention, particularly for infectious diseases."

The role of vitamin D

My research highlights the potential role of vitamin D in slowing disease progression and disease severity for both HIV and tuberculosis. I published the first longitudinal studies demonstrating an association between vitamin D and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. In recent work, I have also shown how vitamin D status is tied to the risk of relapse in patients with tuberculosis.

My research suggests that vitamin D supplements could serve as an inexpensive adjunct to conventional treatment of these diseases, including reducing HIV disease progression and risk of HIV-related morbidities for the first time.


My interest also extends to examining sustainable means of modifying nutritional status, such as biofortification, to achieve higher concentrations of micronutrients in staple crops through non-GMO approaches. I am the principal investigator of a randomized controlled trial of biofortified pearl millet, which is high in iron and zinc, to examine the effects of its consumption on growth and immune and cognitive function among 700 infants in India.

Novel smartphone-based diagnostics

Along with David Erickson, I am the co-inventor of the Cornell Nutriphone. We now have a working prototype which can measure vitamin D status from a single drop of blood, and we have published a paper showing proof of concept with support from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. We are planning to build upon this technology to detect other nutritional biomarkers such as vitamin A and iron, as well as infectious diseases, including dengue, malaria, and typhoid fever.

Such devices can massively improve health services in poorer settings. Most primary health care centers in developing countries don't have access to sophisticated laboratory setups and trained personnel. Equipping such health care centers with a smartphone-based device, which can be easily used and interpreted by a health worker, can immediately upgrade the quality of service and access for the thousands of individuals served by each center.

Since joining Cornell, I have built strong interdisciplinary connections with faculty in engineering, agriculture and life sciences, the vet school, and the medical school. The breadth of disciplines that I have worked across at Cornell is something I could not have imagined.

The International Faculty Fellowship (IFF) program has afforded me access to the faculty and staff who are instrumental to Cornell’s international operations, and my interactions with these individuals have been the most enriching part of my IFF experience thus far.

I hosted a presentation on building a research program in India through the Einaudi Center’s South Asia Program in December 2014 and a seminar on my current research activities in March 2015. I am now developing a cross-cutting workshop on the theme of how international research programs can benefit from and be strengthened by the multi-disciplinary approaches that are a natural asset of Cornell.

We live in an increasingly connected and globalized world. Today’s careers, regardless of discipline, can be anywhere. A meaningful international experience as part of a Cornell education gives our students knowledge of different cultures and backgrounds, the ability to consider multiple perspectives, competence in navigating differences, and team skills.

The need to connect with other people, regardless of their backgrounds, understand them, work with them, and create meaningful partnerships are invaluable lessons learned through international experiences – lessons which often cannot be replicated by domestic assignments.