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NanoBioTechnology Initiative will receive $8 million in funding over the next six years
Ohio University has designated a broad coalition of researchers tackling fundamental issues in nanoscience, biomedical science, related technology and health care issues as its third major research priority for the institution. The NanoBioTechnology Initiative will receive $8 million in funding over the next six years from the university to pursue advances in diagnostics and treatments for health problems such as cancer and diabetes - diseases especially prevalent in the university's home region of Southeast Ohio.
The NanoBioTechnology Initiative is a merger of three teams that submitted proposals to the university's Research Priorities Program, which is designed to support a few focused areas of research, scholarship and creative activity in order to bring national prominence to Ohio University's research endeavor. This group will explore research in the emerging areas of biotechnology, nanoscience and biomedical engineering - including new technologies that have the potential for commercialization and job creation in Ohio - and are proposing the creation of new graduate programs in the fields of biomedical engineering and biophysics. The initiative aims to recruit and retain talented undergraduate and graduate students and faculty while improving the quality of human life through better health care and medical technologies.
Specific areas include:
Biomimetic Nanoscience and Nanoscale Technology Initiative (BNNT): Scientists and engineers examine how to use biological manufacturing strategies to create a new class of materials at the nanoscale. Examples include Tadeusz Malinski, Marvin & Ann Dilley White Professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who has developed a nanoscale medical sensor for early diagnosis of dysfunctions of the cardiovascular system, heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease, and to measure the efficiency of organ transplants. This group has submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to enhance the university's biophysics curriculum, said Hugh Richardson, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who currently represents the BNNT in the larger initiative.
BioMolecular Innovation and Technology Partnership (BMIT): Chemists and biomedical engineers in this group study the molecular basis of diseases, and are developing diagnostics, drugs and treatments for health problems such as cancer and diabetes, said Stephen Bergmeier, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry leading the project. Researchers affiliated with the initiative recently received funding to work with a small business on new chemistry techniques to create antibacterial agents with novel activities, he said. Doug Goetz, an associate professor of chemical engineering who is leading the biomedical engineering effort of BMIT, also has received grants to study the mechanisms and therapeutics for inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
Appalachian Rural Health Institute-Diabetes Research Initiative (ARHI): ARHI aims to improve the health status and quality of life of underserved rural populations, especially those in the Appalachian region, through projects that range from laboratory research to clinical outreach, said Brooke Hallowell, associate dean for research in the College of Health and Human Services and the ARHI representative in the larger initiative. The institute serves as an umbrella organization for interdisciplinary research and service, ranging from laboratory science to patient education, disease prevention and affordability and access to health care, she said. One component of ARHI is the Diabetes Center, which aims to study the prevalence and causes of the disease while developing new therapeutics for the condition, which is especially prevalent in Southeast Ohio.
Researchers with the NanoBioTechnology Initiative will use the funding to hire three new faculty members in the areas of epidemiology, endocrinology and biomedical engineering, as well as research technicians and an administrative assistant; to purchase new microscopes and other scientific equipment; to sponsor a national symposium in this field in the 2008-09 school year; and to enhance graduate and undergraduate curricula.
"The interdisciplinary nature of this project is something that others wouldn't have attempted to do," Bergmeier said, noting that many other universities focus on more discipline-specific research projects. "But there is more potential to make breakthroughs due to the interdisciplinary nature."
The researchers involved with the project anticipate that the broad coalition will help leverage external funding, Hallowell said. The NanoBioTechnology Initiative also fits into the state's Third Frontier goals of fostering high-tech research that could lead to commercialization of new products and job creation in Ohio, she noted.
The NanoBioTechnology Initiative was chosen from 22 original proposals that requested funding from the Research Priorities Program. The project builds on the university's successes in nanotechnology and drug discovery, and will explore combinatorial chemistry as a new route to drug development, said Jack Bantle, vice president for research at Ohio University.
"The science they propose matches long-time university strengths while also opening up new horizons in research," he said.
The university has chosen two other areas of research focus: the Structure of the Universe project, which examines questions in the fields of nuclear and particle physics and astronomy, and the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment, which is tackling problems such as air and water pollution and is developing new clean coal technologies.
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