Northeastern University Researchers Win $1.2m Grant to Develop Nanochips for Use as Nanobiosensors

A team of Northeastern University researchers has received a $1.2 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to develop an innovative multifunctional nanochip with the long-term goal of it being used as a powerful nanobiosensor and drug delivery system, able to identify antigens in body fluid or tissue and release specific drugs and dosages in real-time, based on what is detected. The two year grant will support development of the nanochip’s major design features and feasibility testing of the new design for biomarker monitoring and controlled drug release, both in vitro (in a laboratory setting) and in vivo (within a living organism) to determine detection limits, bio-fouling protection and effectiveness.

The researchers spearheading this unique interdisciplinary project come from three different schools within the University and bring very different areas of expertise to the project. Project leader Ahmed Busnaina, W.L. Smith professor of Engineering and Director of the NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing is joined by Barry Karger, James L. Waters Chair in Analytical Chemistry and Director of The Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis, and Vladimir Torchilin, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine.

“Although this is a new grant, what you have here is the intersection of several very mature ideas,” said Torchilin. “Each of the researchers involved has been working for many years to develop his piece of the solution – from the chips themselves, to the process of using them for bioanalytical purposes, to the options for controlled drug delivery. The Keck Foundation is known for funding some of the most innovative research being done today, and this project is no exception.”

“The interdisciplinary nature of our approach is unprecedented,” said Karger. “We have expertise in nanotechnology, biochemistry and pharmaceuticals converging to create something incredibly unique that could someday have a significant impact on the way we detect and treat a variety of serious illnesses.”

“This research was inspired by recent advances in the selective directed assembly of nanoparticles at the NSF High-rate Nanomanufacturing Center,” said Busnaina. “The team’s interdisciplinary expertise in nanotechnology, biochemistry and pharmaceuticals made the development of a nanobio chip based on this advance possible. We believe that at the end of two years, the basic foundation will have been laid for rapid expansion into practical devices with broad and significant applications.”

The W.M. Keck Foundation supports pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research that lay the groundwork for breakthrough discoveries and new technologies that provide far-reaching benefits for humanity by investing in people and programs that make a difference in the quality of life, now and in the future.

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