Researchers at the Biointerfaces Institute (BI) look closely at biointerfaces–the critical junctures between living cells and other surfaces–to develop new technologies for understanding, diagnosing, and treating disease. BI researchers are aided in their efforts by another, equally critical type of interface: daily, face-to-face interactions with researchers from diverse disciplines.
The critical junctures of medical research
Twenty-five research groups from the University of Michigan’s schools of Engineering, Dentistry, Medicine, and Pharmacy have been co-located in BI’s over 53,500 square foot research space at NCRC to advance research in four main areas:
- Biomaterials and Drug Delivery: creating and applying cutting-edge biomaterials to guide tissue regeneration; designing highly selective, robust, and biocompatible sensors; altering surface chemistry to improve tissue/microfluidic implant interfaces; and developing novel mechanisms to deliver complex drugs to hard to reach places for prolonged periods of time to maximize therapeutic efficacy.
- Nanotechnology: replicating protein functions by inorganic nanostructures for end-use therapeutics and diagnostics, such as selective targeting of breast cancer cells, long-term implants for brain recording, artificial bone marrow, and single cell metabolism monitoring.
- Microfluidics and Sensors: developing novel sensors and sensor materials to enable high throughput sensing, integrated sample processing for point-of-care diagnostics, and ubiquitous environmental monitoring.
- Cell and Tissue Engineering: exploiting cell biology to regenerate tissues and treat debilitating diseases, evaluating the role of tissue remodeling in the progression of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and using human pluripotent stem cells to develop therapeutic protocols.
A culture of collaboration and innovation
Last year, BI and the Kellogg Eye Institute collaborated by co-hosting a research challenge titled “B-Eye” at NCRC; Dr. Belinda Seto, Deputy Director of the National Eye Institute, was the keynote speaker. Topics of interest included:
- eye structure function
- diseases of the front of the eye
- diseases of the back of the eye
- extraocular eye diseases
- stem cell engineering
- drug delivery to the eye
There were 50 faculty participants, and approximately 50 researchers and students in attendance. A total of 21 researchers drafted 8 proposals for seed money. BI’s Steve Schwendeman and Ron Larson both received outside funding as a direct result of the B-Eye Challenge collaboration.
BI Research and Faculty Awards 2016
Co-location breaks through silos, spurs collaborations, and drives innovation. The rich research environment at NCRC has contributed to several BI research and faculty awards. In just the past year:
- Prof. Max Wicha, Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology and Internal Medicine, has received from NCI a $6.5 million Outstanding Investigator Award to study cancer stem cells, the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel its growth and spread.
- Prof. Somin Lee, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received the 2016 AFOSR YIP Award for her proposal, “Sub-Diffraction Temperature Mapping of Protein Interconversions.”
- Prof. Jinsang Kim of Materials Science and Engineering was the 2016 recipient of the “Monroe-Brown Foundation Research Excellence Award” from the College of Engineering.
- Prof. Nicholas Kotov, Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, received the Rexford E. Hall Innovation Excellence Award for 2015-2016.
- Prof. James Moon, John Gideon Searle Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, was awarded an NSF Career Award for “Engineering multilamellar vaccine platforms for vaccination against HIV.”
- Prof. Peter Green, the Vincent T. and Gloria M. Gorguze Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has been elected an AAAS Fellow for significant contributions toward understanding the structure and nanoscale properties of polymers, and for leadership in the field of materials.