Eighth Annual NBTC Nanobiotechnology Symposium
Posted January 18, 2008
On October 1, 2007, scientists from Cornell University and the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR) were joined by speakers from around the globe to discuss their research at the Eighth Annual Nanobiotechnology Symposium, organized by and held at Cornell's Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC). The annual event is part of the Center's efforts aimed at "disseminating knowledge regarding [its] discoveries and ... enhancing the economic impact and commercialization of nanobiotechnology," said Robert Buhrman, Cornell's newly appointed Vice Provost for Research. The symposium was cosponsored by the NBTC, the Kavli Institute at Cornell, and the New York Academy of Sciences.
The themes for this year's event were: improving medical imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutics; nanobiotechnology research and economic development; and directions for sustainable energy.
This conference and eBriefing were made possible with support from:
Journal of Nanobiotechnology
The Journal of Nanobiotechnology publishes papers on all aspects of scientific and technological advances in the fields of medical, biological and nanoscale sciences.
The Kavli Foundation
Focusing on cosmology, neuroscience, and nanoscience, this organization is developing an international program of research institutes, prizes, symposia promoting increased public understanding of science and support for scientists and their work.
Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science
Fosters a collaborative multli-disciplinary research community of researchers working at the atomic and molecular scale.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)'s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer
An initiative to harness the power of nanotechnology to radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.
National Nanotechnology Initiative
The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a federal R&D program established to coordinate the multiagency efforts in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology.
NBTC Nanobiotechnology Center
This Cornell University institute is pursuing projects in an emerging area of scientific and technological opportunity that integrates nano/microfabrication and biosystems.
New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation
NYSTAR works to further high-technology academic research and economic development in New York State.
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Harold G. Craighead, PhD
Harold Craighead is co-director of the Nanobiotechnology Center, of which he was the founding director. He is the Charles W. Lake, Jr. Professor of Engineering and professor of applied and engineering physics at Cornell University. From 1979 to 1984, he was on the technical staff of the device physics research department at Bell Laboratories. In 1984 he joined Bellcore, where he formed and managed the quantum structures research group. He joined the Cornell University faculty in 1989. He is an inventor on thirteen issued patents. Craighead's research focues on the study and development of new methods for nanostructure formation, integrated fluidic/optical devices, nanoelectromechanical systems, and single molecule analysis. Craighead has a PhD from Cornell University.
Graham S. Kerslick, PhD
Graham Kerslick is associate director of the Nanobiotechnology Center. Prior to joining the Center, Kerslick was principal scientist at XRT Corp., a medical device company that developed the first miniature X-ray catheter successfully operated in animal tests. Kerslick led a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and technicians in this research and development project to improve treatment of restenosis. He is co-inventor on several patents related to X-ray catheters and has published many articles on relativistic electron beam research with colleagues at the Cornell Laboratory of Plasma Studies. Kerslick has a PhD from Imperial College, London.
Wolfhard Almers, PhD
After undergraduate studies at the Freie Universtät in Berlin, Wolfhard Almers attended graduate school at Duke University and the University of Rochester, where he received his PhD in Physiology in 1971. He then spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Physiological Laboratory at Cambridge University. He joined the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington as an assistant professor in 1974 and rose to professor in 1984. In 1992, he became the director of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Research, Max-Planck Institute, and from 1995 to 1999 was a professor in the Faculty of Biology, University of Heidelberg. In 1999, he joined the Vollum Institute as a senior scientist. Almers is a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientific review board and a past recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2006 he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Claudia Fischbach-Teschl, PhD
Claudia Fischbach-Teschl joined the Cornell faculty in 2007. She holds a MS from Ludwigs-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany and a PhD in pharmaceutical technology from the University of Regensburg, Germany. She conducted her postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan and in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, where she developed biomimetic 3-D tumor models to study cancer progression as a function of microenvironmental conditions. She has won multiple awards for her graduate work, and her postdoctoral research has been recognized by a fellowship of the German Research Foundation. Fischbach-Teschl's research utilizes biomaterials and biomedical engineering approaches to both analyze and therapeutically target microenvironmental conditions in tumors, and she has published her work in a broad variety of refereed journals in the field of engineering and biology.
Jack Henion, PhD
Jack Henion is Emeritus Professor of Toxicology at Cornell University where he was a member of the College of Veterinary Medicine since 1976. He earned his doctorate from the State University at Albany in synthetic organic and analytical chemistry. Following postdoctoral studies in ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, he commenced a research career as professor of toxicology at Cornell University. During his tenure at Cornell, Henion conducted research and explored applications in many areas of liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) employing atmospheric pressure ionization (API) sources.
Henion is a cofounder of Advion BioSciences, where he was chairman, president, and CEO from 1993 through 2006. In April 2006 he was appointed Chief Scientific Officer and he remains chairman of the company's board of directors.
Kimberly L. Jones, PhD
Kimberly Jones is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Howard University She received her Bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Howard University, her Master's degree in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL. and her PhD in environmental engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. Jones's main areas of research are in developing membrane processes for environmental and biomedical applications, physical-chemical processes for water and wastewater treatment, and nanotechnology.
Jones is also the deputy director of the Keck Center for the Design of Nanoscale Materials for Molecular Recognition; she also served on the Executive Committee of the ALS NASA Specialized Center for Research and Training in Advanced Life Support. She has served on National Academy of Science committees on desalination and environmental models, and currently serves on the National Academy's Water Science and Technology Advisory Board. She has served as secretary of the board of directors of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors and is an associate editor of ASCE's Journal of Environmental Engineering. She has been named one of the top women in science from the National Technical Association.
Philip L. Leopold, PhD
Philip Leopold received training in cell biology and neuroscience during his doctoral studies at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. As an Aaron Diamond Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, he utilized quantitative fluorescence microscopy and electron microscopy to study endocytosis under the mentorship of Frederick R. Maxfield. In 1996, Leopold joined the faculty of the Weill Cornell Medical College, where he is now associate professor of genetic medicine and associate professor of biochemistry in medicine. He conducts research on mechanisms of viral transport through cells as it relates to viral infection and gene therapy vectors. In addition to participating in the delivery of the medical school genetics curriculum, Leopold currently serves as the vice chair of the Weill Cornell Medical College Faculty Council and the cochair of the Education Committee of the American Society of Gene Therapy.
Leopold's research on viral trafficking in cells has garnered attention for its importance for the design of nanoscale gene delivery devices. He has addressed the interface between virology and nanoscience at national meetings including the 1999 UCSF/Molecular Design Institute conference on the Structure and Design of Synthetic Gene Carriers and the 2000 NIH/Biological Engineering Consortium (BECON) Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Symposium. He recently published a chapter relating to these concepts in Nanotechnology in Biology and Medicine (CRC Press Inc., London, 2007).
Manfred Lindau, PhD
Manfred Lindau was trained as a physicist and received his doctorate from the Technical University of Berlin in 1983 in the field of physical chemistry. He was a postdoctoral associate at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and at the Free University of Berlin, where he became an assistant professor in 1988. From 1992 through 1997 he was an associate member of the Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research and taught biophysics at the University of Heidelberg. He joined the faculty at Cornell University in 1997. He is a founding member, member of the executive committee, and program coordinator of the Nanoscale Cell Biology Program at the Science and Technology Center for Nanobiotechnology at Cornell.
Lindau is one of the leading scientists in the field of exocytosis and endocytosis. He has developed and applied biophysical techniques that allow investigation of single vesicle exocytosis and endocytosis in unprecedented detail. In 2003 he received a Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany, in recognition of his scientific achievements and in 2003–2005 was appointed as a member of the Asian Institute of NanoBioScience and Technology. The citation index lists more than 2500 citations of his publications. Lindau has given over 100 invited lectures at conferences and seminars around the world. He is active as a consultant in the areas of biophysics, physiology, and cell biology, and is a member of the Biophysical Society and of the Society for Neuroscience.
Dan Luo, PhD
Dan Luo is an associate professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. He currently is also a faculty member in the Nanobiotechnology Center, the Cornell Center for Materials Research, the Kavli Institute for Nanoscale Science, and the Biomedical Engineering and New Life Science Initiatives at Cornell. Luo obtained his BS degree in biology in 1989 from the University of Science and Technology of China. He received his PhD in 1997 from the Ohio State University in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. After postdoctoral training in the School of Chemical Engineering at Cornell, he joined Cornell faculty in 2001. Luo is an associate editor for the Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, and editorial board member of Nanomedicine and Nano Today. Luo was awarded the National Science Foundation's CAREER award in 2006 and the Cornell Provost's Award for Distinguished Scholarship in 2007.
Brian MacCraith, MSc, PhD, CPhys, FlinstP
Brian MacCraith is director of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI) at Dublin City University. The BDI is a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Centre for Science, Engineering & Technology (CSET) focused on developing the underpinning science leading to next-generation biomedical diagnostics. Established in October 2005, the BDI is an academic-industry partnership involving six industrial and four academic partners. MacCraith was also founding director of the National Centre for Sensor Research at Dublin City University (DCU) and held this position from its establishment in October 1999 until the establishment of the BDI.
With a strong track record and international reputation in the field of optical chemical sensors and biosensors, MacCraith has published widely on topics including fluorescence enhancement (biochips & multi-analyte sensors), plasmonics, evanescent wave sensors, and sol-gel-derived sensor materials and platforms.
In January 2001, he was awarded the DCU President's Research Award "for significant contributions both to optical sensor research and to the development of the overall scientific research effort of Dublin City University." He was elected to fellowship of the Institute of Physics, and was awarded a Personal Chair in Physics at DCU. A spin-off company, Gas Sensor Solutions based on technology developed by MacCraith and colleagues, won the Liavan Mallin Invent Award for innovation. He was also appointed Chair of the Nano-Ireland Task Force in Nanobiotechnology, one of three strands in the Irish Government plan to develop a major programme in nanotechnology. In 2007, MacCraith was elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy and was awarded the Inaugural DCU Academic Leadership Prize.
Edward Reinfurt was nominated by Governor Eliot Spitzer on May 7, 2007 to serve as executive director of the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation. Previously, he served as vice president of the the Business Council of New York State, Inc. The Business Council represents more than 3000 member businesses, chambers of commerce and professional and trade associations. There, he worked with leading New York companies to develop and advance the Council's "innovation agenda," which supported investment in research activities and strengthening of math and science education. As the Business Council liaison to the Executive Chamber, senior staff of state agencies and departments, and members and senior staff of the legislature, Reinfurt was heavily involved in the priority governmental affairs issues advanced each year by the business community. He also spent considerable time on a wide range of public policy issues at the Council. In 2000, he assembled working groups that brought together leaders from both the business and academic sectors who helped formulate the Council initial support for a comprehensive Research University Business Initiative (RUBI). Reinfurt is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany.
Yosi Shacham-Diamand, PhD
Yosi Shacham-Diamand is a professor at the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at Tel Aviv University. He also holds an affiliation with the Department of Solid Mechanics, Materials and Systems at the university's School of Electrical Engineering. He specializes in studying nano-chemical processes for designing microelectronics and systems for integrating biological material on chips for acute toxicity detection.
Abraham D. Stroock, PhD
While spending two years in France pursuing his Bachelor's degree, Abraham Stroock worked in the research division of Electricite de France, and completed a master's degree at the University of Paris VI and XI. After returning to the United States, he completed a PhD in the Chemistry Department at Harvard University with George Whitesides. In the winter of 2003, he joined the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University as an assistant professor. He is the recipient of the Henry and Camille Dreyfus New Faculty Award, the North American Mixing Forum Start-Up Award, the Office of Naval Research's Young Investigator award, the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, the Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award, and the MIT Technology Review TR35 award for innovation.
Larry P. Walker
Larry Walker is a national leader in biofuels and industrial biotechnology, and is currently the director of the Northeast Sun Grant Institute of Excellence, where he leads a 14-state regional research and economic development program focused on biofuels and bioproducts. He has been involved in a number of biomass to energy projects during his 27 years as a Cornell professor, including an assessment of New York State biomass resources available for ethanol production, farm-scale methane production and cogeneration, the application of nanotechnology to discover and study important biocatalysts for biofuels and industrial biotechnology, and the optimization of solid-state fermentation for the production of natural products. He serves on the executive committee for the National Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC), based at Cornell University.
Walker's extramural activities include past membership on the National Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee, an appointment as coeditor-in-chief for the journal Industrial Biotechnology, current membership on the American Council of Renewable Energy (ACORE) Higher-Education Committee, and membership on the Advisory Board for the Presidential Forum on Renewable Energy. He is a recent recipient of a New York Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) faculty development award.
Watt W. Webb
Watt Webb holds a BS and ScD from MIT. He conducted research in engineering and solid-state and chemical physics as coordinator of fundamental research and assistant director of research at Union Carbide Corporation before and after graduate studies. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1961, served as director of the School of Applied and Engineering Physics from 1983 to 1989, and is a faculty member of seven graduate fields. He is codirector of the Developmental Resource for Biophysical Imaging Opto-Electronics. He has been a visiting scholar at numerous organizations and has won many prestigious scientific awards. He has published over 320 refereed papers and has been awarded 22 U.S. patents plus many foreign patents. He is active as a consultant and in various Cornell and national advisory committees and professional societies in which he is a fellow.
Joe Ogrodnick is a writer in the Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Communications.
On October 1, 2007, scientists from Cornell University and the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR) were joined by speakers from around the globe to discuss their research at the Eighth Annual Nanobiotechnology Symposium, organized by and held at Cornell's Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC). The annual event is part of the Center's efforts aimed at "disseminating knowledge regarding [its] discoveries and ...enhancing the economic impact and commercialization of nanobiotechnology," said Robert Buhrman, Cornell's newly appointed Vice Provost for Research. The symposium was cosponsored by the NBTC, the Kavli Institute at Cornell, and the New York Academy of Sciences.
NBTC Director Harold Craighead noted in his welcoming remarks that in each of the eight years the symposium has been held, the program has changed in character, becoming increasingly outward looking with time. The themes for this year's event were:
- Improving medical imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutics
- Nanobiotechnology research and economic development
- Directions for sustainable energy
A hallmark of the Center has always been an effective integration of scientists—chemists, engineers, and physical and life scientists pursuing the relatively new area of nanobiotechnology. So it was not surprising that terms like collaboration, teamwork, interaction, interdisciplinary, and building bridges were heard repeatedly throughout the daylong symposium and were a common thread that wove many of the various presentations together.
A number of speakers shared their research discoveries in the rapidly developing field of nanomedicine. Nanomedicine utilizes engineered nanodevices and nanostructures in both the treatment and prevention of disease at the molecular level.
Abraham Stroock (Cornell), described a wound dressing with microfluidic properties that has all the characteristics of conventional dressings, but also has input (among these a mechanism for drug delivery) and output controls to tailor the environment and monitor the biochemical condition of the wound bed. The wound dressing was just one example of what Stroock calls "functional microphysiological structures that interface with biology." He listed some others as:
- scaffolds for tissue engineering
- model tissues for basic biology, pharmokinetics, and toxicology
Another example of a novel approach to facilitating drug delivery through nanobiotechnology came from Philip Leopold (Weill Cornell Medical College) who relayed to the audience how viruses can be used as mentors or vehicles for this purpose. Comparing a virus with the space shuttle, Leopold said, "They both have three stages, get where they're going in just a few minutes, and deliver their payloads with an expectation of 100% efficiency." However, viruses are not ideal vectors for gene delivery, in part because they provoke an immune response.
Leopold discussed a systematic way of thinking about the tools that viruses use for gene delivery. He noted that a virus uses cellular proteins to help it deliver its genome to the nucleus, carrying out what he calls "subcellular mimicry." In this process, the virus tricks the cell into thinking it is carrying out a normal function, such as nutrient uptake or organelle motility. From this observation, Leopold hypothesizes that we should be able to create an efficient nonviral vector with human proteins that can carry out those viral functions, exploiting normal cellular processes in the same manner. "Making an efficient nonviral gene transfer shouldn't be rocket science," he said in his concluding remarks. "It's just nanotechnology!"
Brian MacCraith (Dublin City University, Ireland) explained how fluorescence-based biochips could be used in revolutionary diagnostic devices for home use that provide early warning of life-threatening diseases, control of chronic diseases, and monitoring of well being. One such device—a myocardial infarction early warning system, if you will—that's based on the glucose testing paradigm, would track changes related to diet and general health to provide information as to whether or not an individual is at risk for future cardiac problems.
For this type of system to become a commonly used diagnostic, a number of hurdles have to be overcome. MacCraith described one of the challenges, that of optimizing fluorescence-based biochips so that the signal-to-noise ratio is higher, the signal is amplified, and detection of impending disease can occur before the condition becomes a problem. His work showed that one reason the sensitivity of these fluorescence-based chips is low is that most of the light hitting the chip gets trapped inside, and only a small fraction is emitted out of the bottom or above the chip, where can be detected by the optics system. By finding ways to get around this problem, the team was able to greatly enhance the biochip's sensitivity. MacCraith's group is working on other complementary approaches, including the development of advanced diagnostic biochips based on plasmon-enhanced fluorescence.
Nanotechnology can also be used in cell biological studies to mimic the complicated microenvironment in which cells function in the body. All cells interact with the extracellular matrix (ECM) via integrins, which are the cell surface receptors that mediate various intracellular signals to control migration, proliferation, and differentiation. However, said Claudia Fischbach-Teschl (Cornell), what is not very well understood is how these interactions contribute to another phenomenon—tumor vascularization, or the stimulation of new blood vessel growth by signaling from tumor cells. Tumor vascularization is a critical step both for tumor growth and for tumor cells to metastasize to distant organs.
Studies of cell-ECM interactions are usually conducted with two-dimensional culture systems in which petri dishes are coated with ECM components. But these systems are a poor substitute for the actual microenvironment of a tumor. Fischbach-Teschl is working on building polymeric systems to study the role of three-dimensional cell-ECM interactions in tumor vascularization. In one early indication that the structure of the culture matters, she has found that levels of growth factor secretion from tumor cells differ depending on whether the study is conducted in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional culture system.
Yosi Shacham-Diamand (Tel Aviv University) described whole cell bio-chips in which optical and electrochemical detection systems interface with living cells. The cells act as sensors while the electronic components provide a simple and sensitive way to report the output. Such systems have a number of potential applications, including acute toxicant detection in drinking water, screening drugs for activity or toxicity, diagnostic clinical information, basic neuroscience, and environmental engineering. Shacham-Diamand pointed out that using live cells in this manner is a modern day twist on the use of caged live canaries by Welsh coal miners to detect toxic fumes. "This is why sometimes our students call it the 'Canary Project,'" he said.
Nanobiotechnology and entrepreneurship
Steve Kresovich, Vice Provost for Life Sciences at Cornell, in his remarks introducing the afternoon program, reminded the audience that linking research with economic development and building bridges between the two is of the highest priority. "We see in the future closer collaborations, with research coming out of the University as an economic driver," Kresovich said.
"The new economy strategy talks about entrepreneurial activities and the importance of innovation in any firm regardless of its size," said Ed Reinfurt, acting executive director of NYSTAR. "If you can't embrace innovation, if you're not doing something better and different from your competitor, you're not going to succeed."
He continued, saying that New York State policy makers ask themselves four main questions when making policy decisions about research, innovation, and the economy: Where is New York today? Where does it need to go? How do we get the greatest impact from our investments? And how do we best position New York to thrive in a global innovation economy? "We need innovation to be the leader in economic development," he said.
Universities are key, according to Reinfurt, to New York State continuing to thrive and to increase productivity and innovation since universities offer strong leadership, they support promising scientists and engineers, and, in partnership with the State, they can invest in research and innovation that is aligned with important industry clusters.
Advion is a good example of the kinds of partnerships to which Reinfurt was referring. Jack Henion, Advion's cofounder, chairman, chief scientific officer, and former Cornell University faculty member, started the company as a service business doing liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis for the pharmaceutical industry. The company developed other services according to need from industry, such as sample management, metabolic identification, pharmacokinetic, and immunoassay services.
In the late 1990s, Advion became Advion Biosystems, a product business based on Henion's lab's work at Cornell, which used polymer-based chips to combine analytic chemistry with mass spectrometry. These chips have application to the pharmaceutical industry, which needed to analyze millions of samples quickly. New possibilities include combining data from the chips with PET and the new micro-PET technology for cancer diagnosis. "The key is an infrastructure and people that know what to do, a culture that fosters creativity," Henion said.
Other new biotechnologies
Dan Luo (Cornell) elicited a chuckle from the audience when he called NBTC one of the world's three most important inventions, the other two being polymers and DNA.
Luo uses DNA as a nanoscale material not only to do basic studies, but for applications in nanotechnology, medicine, materials science, and engineering. "We use DNA to construct nanoscale architecture," Luo said. "In other words we want to do DNA Lego or Tinkertoys." Luo's group has created DNA dendrimers, DNA-addressable molecules and materials, DNA-based barcode systems, DNA hydrogels, DNA liposomes, DNA-Au hybrid nanoparticles, and a DNA gel that can produce a large quantity of proteins without any living organisms.
Nanoscale technologies can be used to build new materials, and could play a role in environmental sustainability.
With the aforementioned DNA barcode they were able to detect anthrax bacteria, ebola virus, and SARS virus simultaneously. Using a form of the DNA encapsulated hydrogel, insulin was delivered to the cells of patients to treat type 1 diabetes. The latter was done in collaboration with researchers at Cornell Weill Medical Center.
Luo says that he and his partners have taken the first steps toward commercialization forming a company called DNANO. The group has received a $500,000 NYSTAR technology transfer award to support the barcode technology.
Concerns about energy costs and availability, and more recently issues of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, national security, and global competition, have spurred the promotion of biofuels as one component of the nation's renewable energy portfolio. "Success in meeting the objective of developing 'green' industrial processes that are cost effective and sustainable requires coupling the core basic sciences with advanced materials, separation processes and, yes, nanobiotechnology to develop the next generation of bioconversion processes and systems," said Cornell's Larry Walker. "An emphasis on industrial biotechnology links us with nanobiotechnology, which in turn links us to biofuels."
A reception and lively poster session with more than 60 posters allowed meeting participants to probe the day's topics in more detail and exchange ideas about future collaborations.