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New Nano Institute Established at the University of Utah

State's big stake in small science takes giant step forward

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October 14, 2008 - Officials at the University of Utah announced today the establishment of the Nano Institute of Utah, representing a significant and decisive step in the state's quest to bring together the university's and the state's nano science experts in diverse areas of chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, medicine and pharmacy.

A nano, measuring one billionth of a meter, lends its name to the super-small scale devices and scientific methods used to create the 21st century's most advanced technology that promises to revolutionize everything from communications to health care.

"Our mission is to develop and implement a comprehensive program to advance nanoscience and technology across the university and the State of Utah," said Nano Institute director Marc Porter, Ph.D, USTAR professor in the departments of chemistry and chemical engineering. "The Institute will drive research partnerships with academia, the private sector and government agencies."

The Institute, says Porter, will help Utah enhance its position in nanotechnology research and development and also facilitate commercialization of new nanoscience discoveries.       

Annual conference to bring state's nano and medical experts together

The establishment of the Nano Institute of Utah will be formally announced at NanoUtah 2008, the annual conference hosting nano science researchers from Utah and around the globe. Held October 16-17 at the University of Utah, NanoUtah 2008 will focus on recent advances in employing nanotechnology in medicine.

"This year's conference is particularly exciting because nanomedicine holds much promise for health care and making people's lives better," said conference organizer Hamid Ghandehari, PhD and USTAR professor of pharmaceutics and bioengineering.  "With the discoveries, devices and techniques offered by nanomedicine, the hope for targeted cancer therapies, localized drug delivery, tissue engineering and gene therapy can become everyday realities."

Newly formed at the University of Utah, the Center for Nanomedicine will be a critical part of the new Institute as researchers at the Center work toward developing methods to target therapeutics and diagnostics at the cellular level, revolutionizing imaging and drug delivery for treating cancer and neurological diseases.

New Institute with a Long Pedigree

"The Institute formalizes and strengthens the work and the partnerships already in place," Porter added. "By establishing the institute, we begin bringing together the pieces and players to take nanoscience in Utah from the scientist's bench to commercialization and beyond -- where innovation begins affecting peoples' lives."

Institute framers identified five important nanoscience areas of focus for the Institute: nanomaterials (thin films, coatings); interfacial sciences dealing with the behavior of fine particles and thin films that interact (molecular structuring, ion transport); nanobiosensors (diagnostics, chemical detection); nanomedicine (localized drug delivery, diagnostic imaging, scaffolds for tissue engineering); and micro and nano systems integration and reliability (building nano systems and devices).

According to institute co-director Ghandehari, USTAR professor of pharmaceutics and bioengineering, Utah officially recognized the importance of nanotechnology in 2005 when its Office of Economic Development hosted the first meeting to plan the State of Utah Nanotechnology Initiative. 

In 2006 the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) was established, which is investing $15 million annually in a range of research projects, including some focused on nanotechnology. USTAR's intent is to recruit world class nanotechnology researchers and enable research and development of nanotechnology and commercialization among other advanced scientific fields. The Nano Institute of Utah, he says, is further evidence of the state's commitment.

Florian Solzbacher, Ph.D, professor in the departments of electrical engineering, materials science and bioengineering and co-director of the Institute added that the institute will identify and promote entrepreneurial opportunities and help launch new high tech companies to commercialize nanoscience discoveries.

USTAR nanotechnology consultant Darwin Cheney, Ph.D. agrees.

"The institute should prove to be a magnet for industry-sponsored research and other collaborative efforts with leading life science business," confirmed Cheney. "It will be in a unique position to capitalize on state-of-the-art nanofabrication facilities the University is adding as part of the USTAR building project."

U's interdisciplinary approach smart and competitive

According to University of Utah Vice President for Research Thomas N. Parks, Ph.D., the creation of the Nano Institute was the best vehicle for providing a nucleus of administration and science that could bring together the disparate elements necessary to build competitive research programs in nanotechnology.

"The goal is to have the highest quality research team who will be major players in the multidisciplinary area of nanotechnology," said Parks. "The Institute will attract like-minded engineers and scientists who can as quickly as possible take us to the forefront of nanoscience and also provide a foundation for training the next generation of nanoscientists."

Parks also noted that the Institute effectively brings together the University's 'upper campus,' home to medicine and pharmacy, and the ‘lower campus,' home to engineering, chemistry and physics.

Training is an important mission for the Institute, confirmed Ghandehari.

"Faculty at the Institute will be fully involved with teaching nanotechnology topics at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels," promised Ghandehari. "These efforts will be integrated with existing educational outreach programs initiated by USTAR."

More information on research and teaching in nanotechnology at the U can be found at www.nanofab.utah.edu/,  http://www.nanoinstitute.utah.edu/.

More on USTAR professors Ghandehari and Porter is available here:  http://ustar.utah.gov/about/faculty.

For more about the development of new technology and "knowledge economy" businesses in Utah, click on http://www.innovationutah.com/, the state's first online community bringing together academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, the investment community, industry representatives, and technology growth partners.

Media Contacts

Marc Porter
USTAR professor of chemistry and chemical engineering and bioengineering
Office phone: (801) 587-1505
Email address: marc.porter@utah.edu
Valoree Dowell
U of U National News Specialist
Office phone: (801) 585-6861
Cell phone: (801) 403-3128
Email address: v.dowell@ucomm.utah.edu
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