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UC students compete for big prize with small technology


Christchurch, New Zealand, August 07, 2005 ---Two University of Canterbury PhD students carrying out research with the MacDiarmid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology have been short-listed in an international nanotechnology business plan competition.

James Muys and David Melville will head to Padua, Italy, in November to present their business idea to the judging panel of the 2005 Nanochallenge, aiming to win the €300,000 (NZ $535,000) start-up prize.

The two students lead a team which includes their supervisors Associate Professor Richard Blaikie and Dr Maan Alkaisi, who act in an advisory capacity. They are one of 20 teams whose business idea earned them selection for the final, out of 70 entries from around the world. They will also be the only team from Australasia vying for the inaugural prize.

Their idea involves developing a nanotechnology technique, called bio Imprint, which may revolutionise the way in which biomedical and pharmaceutical industries detect diseases, diagnose cancer or test drugs.

The bio Imprint is a both a device and a process for replicating cell topography for analysis using high-resolution imaging tools such as the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).

The business plan idea developed from James' PhD research, which is built around using non-optical devices such as the (AFM) to take extremely high resolution images of cells.

“Optics is limited by the wave-length of light so a lot of cell data is missed using conventional microscopy,” says James. “We come in with the atomic force microscope and can image on a nanometre scale, providing a better resolution of the cell structure from which you can, for example, see the mutations that are causing cancer or be able to diagnose other diseases to a more accurate level.”

While the nano-instruments like the AFM and scanning electron microscope have been used to analyse biological samples for decades, James says they are extremely challenging.

“One of the main reasons why industry is not using these tools as a diagnostic technique is because there has been no reliable technique that facilitates their integration with biological materials.

“This is where bio Imprint comes in – it is a process for transferring the complete topographic resolution of the cell structure into a dedicated device designed for high resolution imaging of the cell structure down to the nanometre.”

James says the unique thing about the team's product is that it can be produced at low-cost and is very rapidly developed.

“A lot of nanotech products are built on promises that need years of development and cost millions of dollars. This device has already been proven and is easy to use and integrate with existing technology, which is a big advantage.”

The Nanochallenge is an international business plan competition organised by Veneto Nanotech. The competition aims to uncover breakthrough nanotechnology applications and attract the best entrepreneurial talents, in order to create an active environment enhancing the nanotechnology innovation process.


Contact:
Maria Hand
Communications Officer
University of Canterbury
Tel: +64 3 364 2072
Fax: +64 3 364 2679
Mob: 027 224 5104
maria.hand@canterbury.ac.nz

 

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