Rensselaer Research Review
Home Page Awards & Grants Patents Accolades Back Issues RPI Research
*
*
*

A Meeting of the Minds

Rensselaer’s new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies opens with scientific symposium.

By Sharon Tefft Bozovsky     Printer-friendly PDF version

*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

Symposium

A high-level discussion on biotechnology was held prior to the ribbon-cutting Sept. 10.

Related Article: Presidential Colloquy Illustrates Opportunities in Biotechnology Research
*
* *
An impressive array of some of today’s most prominent scientists gathered at Rensselaer to mark the opening of the new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and to speak of promising innovations in the field of biotechnology.

A biotechnology symposium titled “Biological Discoveries That Will Change the World” was held Sept. 9, showcasing stellar geneticists, biologists, engineers, and chemical, biological, and biomedical engineers. The following day they were joined by leaders in the biotechnology industry, policy makers, and top researchers who participated in a roundtable discussion led by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. The new biotechnology center was opened officially with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 10.

“The long-term potential is enormous — for drug delivery, replacement cells for degenerative diseases, and eventually even organ replacement,” Jackson noted. “The number of patients in the United States awaiting organ transplantation has increased by 40 percent in the last five years, but the number of organ donors has increased only by 13 percent. More than 17,000 Americans await liver transplantation alone. Imagine the day when science could provide new livers for these people. Considering that Harvard researchers have implanted small, functioning kidneys in cows, it may be closer than we know.

“Other research programs have flourished by using new, interdisciplinary laboratory techniques, such as biocatalysis and metabolic engineering, which aims to use enzymes as catalysts to improve pharmaceutical or chemical production, or to design proteins which can neutralize viruses or harmful genes. Here at Rensselaer, Jonathan Dordick’s research group has drawn upon microelectronics to develop biochips capable of producing thousands of new compounds with potential medical or environmental uses. Working with researchers from Rensselaer’s National Science Foundation Center for the Directed Assembly of Nanostructures, the team also is linking biomolecules with nanomaterials. By showing that proteins, for instance, can be absorbed into carbon nanotubes, they may be taking the first steps toward a new generation of micro-scale sensors, as well as self-cleaning, and self-healing surfaces.

“In short,” Jackson added, “the questions driving our research may come from biology, but the solutions often include the tools and methods of chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and nanotechnology. By drawing upon other disciplines, the biosciences are regenerating themselves.

Rensselaer’s new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies ranks among the world’s most advanced research facilities focused on the application of engineering and the physical and informational sciences to the life sciences. The center is a 218,000-square-foot, $100,000 million (including $80 million for construction) facility with high-tech laboratories and an expansive atrium. It will provide a platform for collaboration among many diverse academic and research disciplines to enhance discovery and encourage innovation.

The center’s opening attracted many of the nation’s leading biotechnology experts who provided their insights into the promising future of interdisciplinary research in the life sciences.

*
Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D.
Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D.

Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D., president of Princeton University and a highly respected molecular biologist, detailed some of the highlights of the Human Genome Project. “[It] will have enormous impact on the life sciences...no field of biology will be untouched,” she said.

The Human Genome Project legitimized data-driven science, Tilghman said. Noting that today researchers are generating a large amount of data to be tested for validity, she said, “We’re beginning to understand the pattern of inheritance of human varieties; to understand how inherited segments are inherited as segments.

“Previously, scientists used a reductionist approach to components that made up an organism. It was like the proverbial blindfolded men describing an elephant. With the information age and the parts list assembled, we have the opportunity to study the organism in its totality. We have taken off the blindfolds, and now we’re poised to make major contributions to the life sciences,” Tilghman added.

*
*
*
*
* Continued
“A Meeting of the Minds”  Page:  1 | 2     Next Page
*
*
*

Home | Awards & Grants | Recent Patents | Accolades | Back Issues | RPI Research

   Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
   
110 8th Street, Troy, NY USA 12180
Copyright ©2004 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Published quarterly by the Rensselaer Office of Communications in collaboration with the Office of Research.

Molecularium(SM) and associated characters are service marks of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. All rights are reserved.