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
"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,
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.