University of South Carolina Gets $800K for New Nano Lab

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 3:12 pm    Post subject: University of South Carolina Gets $800K for New Nano Lab Reply with quote

University of South Carolina Receives $800,000 Grant to Create a Nano Lab Specialising in Biomedicine

The University of South Carolina has received an $800,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to create a laboratory that will develop new technologies in tissue engineering, sensing, drug delivery, vaccine manufacturing and other biomedical applications.

The W.M. Keck Open Laboratory for Bionanoparticle Technology Discovery and Development will be housed in the university's NanoCenter and will be a partnership between USC and the Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, Calif. Drs. Qian Wang and Cathy Murphy, faculty members in USC's department of chemistry and biochemistry, have formed a research team with Scripps chemistry professor M.G. Finn.

"We want this lab to provide a platform for collaborators across several disciplines," said Wang. "Scientists from chemistry and medicine at USC already are working together with bionanoparticles, which is a fairly new research area. Mechanical and chemical engineering, biology, pharmacy, physics and other disciplines likely will be a part of this research in the future."

Wang's research on the turnip yellow mosaic virus, a common plant virus harmless to humans, has focused on the virus's shell as a potential vehicle for transporting nano-sized bits of cancer-fighting drugs. That research has yielded promising results, and the plant virus turns out to be an ideal structure for other nanotechnology research.

"The plant viruses used in our laboratories are very stable and uniform in size so you could use them to create a grid for screening, filtering or detection," said Murphy. "You also could conceivably combine the virus with metal particles to create a photonics application: using light instead of electrons to send information."

Murphy's research team has developed new techniques for making nano-sized particles of gold and silver. Attaching those metal particles to the plant virus opens the door to creating biomedical agents, hybridized materials, vaccines and new agents for drug delivery.

Vogt said he believes USC was successful in competing for the Keck Foundation funding because of the recognition that Wang, Murphy and Finn have received for their previous research in nanoscience. Another asset for USC is its NSF-funded research group, headed by philosophy professor Davis Baird, which studies the societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology.

"You can't develop any field of research too far without putting it in a societal context," Vogt said. "The result could be public rejection, and that's exactly what happened when people voiced opposition to genetically modified foods in Europe and protested nuclear energy in the United States."

The W.M. Keck Open Laboratory for Bionanoparticle Technology Discovery and Development will provide exciting educational opportunities for high-school, undergraduate and graduate students. Some will be trained to use the lab's high-tech instruments, and many more will be exposed to the possibilities of bionanoparticle research.

"Dr. Murphy and I ran a high-school camp this past summer that trained students how to harvest, analyze and modify the plant virus, and we will continue this effort in the future," Wang said. "This helps them to better understand the research related to biotechnology and nanoscience and to consider choosing a career in this exciting emerging field."

The Keck Foundation is a leading supporter of high-impact medical research, science and engineering.

Source: University of South Carolina.


This story was posted on 24 February 2006.
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