Inside Rensselaer
Rensselaer Hosts Seventh Annual NanoBiotech Conference
Increased public focus on the growing role of nanotechnology and biotechnology in health care and drug discovery continue to raise important legal, medical, and ethical implications for the research community. To better bridge the world of policy with those on the front lines of research, Rensselaer hosted the annual NanoBiotech conference on Oct. 19.

More than 200 researchers, students, physicians, lawyers, and venture capitalists attended the conference, held at the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS). The daylong event, sponsored in part by Rensselaer’s Office of Alumni Relations and now in its seventh year, attracts international, multidisciplinary attention for its deep focus on the impact of nano-technology and biotechnology on health care and pharmaceuticals.

“The presence of nanopharmaceuticals in the pharma and biotech industries is established and apparent, and there continues to be tremendous opportunities for researchers to make groundbreaking contributions to public health and for the public good,” said Raj Bawa ’87, conference chair and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Biology at Rensselaer. “But for nanomedicine to be a viable commercial entity, we desperately need clearer regulatory guidelines and safety standards from federal agencies. Moreover, business incentives and partnerships at the state and local level are needed. Also, the serious patent backlog dogging the U.S. Patent Office is stifling commercialization efforts and needs to be addressed.”

Presentations at the conference included technical topics, such as a talk by Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering, on his research into creating an artificial Golgi complex based on a digital microfluidic chip. Other presentations were focused more on industry and legal topics, such as “Biosafety and Health Concerns Associated with NanoBiotech Research” by CBIS Associate Director Glenn Monastersky, as well as “Commercializing University Inventions” and “Current Environmental Law Issues in Nanotechnology.”
In his morning keynote presentation, Jonathan Dordick, CBIS director and the Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, spoke about his biocatalysis research into developing enzyme-based thin films for decontaminating chemical and biological agents. Such films could be applied to many different surfaces, or even incorporated into paints and other materials, to reduce the transmission of harmful germs.

“One of the biggest challenges today is to eliminate microbes from closed environments ... such as hospital rooms. Nature is very good at resisting antibiotics. However, we have found that bacteria have a very difficult time coming up with strategies to resist enzymes that degrade their cell walls and, in turn, lead to their death,” Dordick said. “Our research should lead to new applications that help curb the spread of a wide range of pathogens in hospitals, playgrounds, food production factories, and even airplanes.”
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 12, November 6, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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