The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute interweaves life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering into the fields of biotechnology and medicine, opening exciting new pathways to innovation and discovery. From complex biological networks to nanoscale assemblies that mimic biological processes, CBIS is a powerhouse of academic and research advancement. More than 200 CBIS scientists and engineers are working here to uncover the molecular basis of biological mechanisms and disease, using biological systems as the basis for new therapeutics, and developing new cellular niches critical in tissue regeneration. More about CBIS
The Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer
Over Ten Years
- 40 Faculty
- 200 Ph.D.s Granted
- 1,000 Undergrads Trained
- 2,000 Peer-Reviewed Publications
- 30,000 Citations (ISI)
- $130MExternal Grant Funding
News & Events
Building on what nature has provided, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have improved the efficiency of a leaf and branch compost cutinase that breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the plastic used in clear and colored plastic water bottles and many other products.
How does a cell know when to divide? We know that hundreds of genes contribute to a wave of activity linked to cell division, but to generate that wave new research shows that cells must first grow large enough to produce four key proteins in adequate amounts.
Research & Constellations
CBIS is conducting groundbreaking research in:
CBIS has four endowed Constellations:
- 150 PhD Students
- 50 Postdoctoral Fellows
- 33 Principal Investigator Laboratories
- 25 Visiting Research Scientists
- 218,000 sq ft modern facility
- 31, 240 sq ft of open research labs
- 13,009 sq ft of support labs
- 27,350 sq ft of core facilities
- 5,830 sq ft conference and seminar space
In the News
Scientists are developing greener plastics – the bigger challenge is moving them from lab to marketAugust 16, 2018 -
Synthetic plastics have made many aspect of modern life cheaper, safer and more convenient. However, we have failed to figure out how to get rid of them after we use them.
Autism Blood Test: One Step CloserJune 25, 2018 -
Improving a plastic-degrading enzyme for better PET recyclingMarch 5, 2018 -
Stabilizing a bacterial enzyme by strategically decorating it with sugars could help it to recycle one of the most widely used plastics and ultimately keep that plastic out of the landfill (Biochemistry 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b01189).
RPI Student Finds Meteorite in MichiganJanuary 25, 2018 -
NPR's The Academic MinuteJanuary 19, 2018 -
From circadian rhythms to corporate financing reporting, Rensselaer research was featured all week on NPR's Academic Minute on WAMC.
Can road salt and other pollutants disrupt our circadian rhythms?January 12, 2018 -
Every winter, local governments across the United States apply millions of tons of road salt to keep streets navigable during snow and ice storms. Runoff from melting snow carries road salt into streams and lakes, and causes many bodies of water to have extraordinarily high salinity.
At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, my colleague Rick Relyea and his lab are working to quantify how increases in salinity affect ecosystems. Not surprisingly, they have found that high salinity has negative impacts on many species. They have also discovered that some species have the ability to cope with these increases in salinity.
The Remarkable Career of Shirley Ann JacksonDecember 21, 2017 - Shirley Ann Jackson worked to help bring about more diversity at MIT, where she was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate. She then applied her mix of vision and pragmatism in the lab, in Washington, and at the helm of a major research university.
Despite a Small Staff, Tissue Engineering Lab Has a Broad Research FocusDecember 11, 2017 -
Despite its size, Dr. Mariah Hahn’s lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is an important part of the broader tissue-engineering research community. The lab has two main goals: creating disease models to more effectively screen potential therapeutics before they are tested in small animals and designing better materials to help organs and tissues repair themselves following injury or scarring.
The Jefferson Papers - Changing forests, insecticides, and wetland ecosystemsNovember 9, 2017 -
The Jefferson Project at Lake George is conducting research into how human activities may affect the lake, which include attached wetlands and the surrounding watershed. Here, we summarize research on the combined effects of changing forests and a commonly applied insecticide on wetland ecosystems, which was published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.
The Jefferson Papers - Forests, Road Salt and Wetlands Ecosystem Research PublishedNovember 9, 2017 -
The Jefferson Project at Lake George is conducting research into how human activities may affect the lake. Here, we summarize research on the effects of road salt and changing forest composition on wetland ecosystems, which was published recently in the journal Freshwater Science .
Picture of the Day: Can environmental toxins disrupt the biological clock?November 7, 2017 -
Can environmental toxins disrupt circadian rhythms -- the biological clock whose disturbance is linked to chronic inflammation and a host of human disorders? Research showing a link between circadian disruption and plankton that have adapted to road salt pollution puts the question squarely on the table. The research builds on recent findings from the Jefferson Project at Lake George, showing that a common species of zooplankton, Daphnia pulex (shown here), can evolve tolerance to moderate levels of road salt in as little as two and a half months. That research produced five populations of Daphnia adapted to salt concentrations ranging from the current concentration of 15 milligrams-per-liter of chloride in Lake George to concentrations of 1,000 milligrams-per-liter, as found in highly contaminated lakes in North America.
WE’RE POURING MILLIONS OF TONS OF SALT ON ROADS EACH WINTER. HERE’S WHY THAT’S A PROBLEM.November 7, 2017 -
Despite the ever-greater use, road salt’s effects on streams, lakes and groundwater have been largely ignored until recently. As recently as 2014, when biologist Rick Relyea began studying the effects of salt-laden runoff at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “the world of science didn’t pay very much attention to the impacts of road salt on water,” he says. “Now we’re paying much more attention.”
The Hidden Dangers of Road SaltMay 30, 2017 -
“It has a really widespread number of effects on the whole food web or ecosystem,” says Rick Relyea, a professor of biological sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Relyea has studied how road salt runoff impacts lakes as part of the Jefferson Project at Lake George in New York state. Recently, he found that road salt can reduce the size of rainbow trout hatchlings by about 30 percent, influencing their ability to elude predators and decreasing the number of eggs they lay. One experiment he worked on found that higher levels of salt could change the male-female sex ration of wood frogs.
Experimental blood test could speed autism diagnosis-U.S. studyMarch 16, 2017 -
Developers of an experimental blood test for autism say it can detect the condition in more than 96 percent of cases and do so across a broad spectrum of patients, potentially allowing for earlier diagnosis, according to a study released on Thursday.
Insight into Pseudomonas aeruginosa survival mechanismNovember 11, 2016 -
The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa can thrive in environments as different as the moist, warm tissue in human lungs, and the dry, nutrient-deprived surface of an office wall. Such adaptability makes it problematic in healthcare.
RPI researchers use nanoparticles to treat influenza in miceNovember 4, 2016 -
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute demonstrated in a paper published last month how they successfully treated immune-compromised mice exposed to the influenza virus with a new nanoparticle drug.
Heparin derived from cattle is equivalent to heparin from pigs, study findsOctober 6, 2016 -
As demand for the widely used blood thinning drug heparin continues to grow, experts worry of possible shortages of the essential medication. Heparin is primarily derived from pigs, and to reduce the risk of shortages, cattle have been proposed as an additional source. A new study by a team of researchers, including corresponding author Robert J. Linhardt, and nine co-authors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. has found that heparin derived from cattle (known as bovine heparin) has equivalent anti-clotting properties to heparin derived from pigs (porcine heparin).
Engineering A New Chemical Communication System Into BacteriaAugust 10, 2015 -
Previously, synthetic biologists had only engineered synthetic quorum-sensing systems in gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli. But gram-positive bacteria are heavily used in the biotech industry to synthesize enzymes. So Cynthia H. Collins of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and colleagues wanted to build systems that would function within these commercially important bacteria.
Albany-area primary care doctors try medical scribesMay 18, 2015 -
When Leslie Palmer went to see her longtime primary care physician, Dr. Paul Barbarotto, earlier this month, there was an extra person in the room ...
Rensselaer Pairs Business Students with Researchers to Aid CommercializationMarch 25, 2015 -
Graduate-level business students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are working with science and engineering faculty to assist researchers in the commercialization process.
Region lands $500K for biomed effortDecember 19, 2014 -
The NY Cap Research Alliance is one of 93 projects in the Albany region receiving a share of $60 million through a state funding competition. The alliance won $500,000 last week to create a capital investment program for biomedical researchers at area colleges and health care organizations.
Who Made That Flavor? Maybe A Genetically Altered MicrobeDecember 11, 2014 -
Take, for instance, chemical compounds called antioxidants. Health-conscious consumers are snapping them up because there's some evidence that these substances repair damaged cells in our body, reducing the risk of cancer and heart problems.
New AAAS Fellows Recognized for Their Contributions to Advancing ScienceDecember 11, 2014 -
Francine Berman, a professor in the computer science department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was elected a AAAS Fellow "for distinguished contributions to the field of computer science and community leadership in data cyber-infrastructure, digital data preservation, and high performance computing." A former chair of the AAAS section representing Information, Computing, and Communication, Berman was delighted to learn that she has been elected a AAAS Fellow.
Bright idea aims to minimize hospital-acquired infectionsDecember 11, 2014 -
“Individuals can go into a hospital and end up even more sick than when they enter,” said Colleen Costello, a young biomedical engineer, who realized the magnitude of this problem when her grandmother contracted MRSA during a hospital stay. Her company, Vital Vio, is trying to tackle the issue by creating bacteria-killing lights.
Artificial Pancreas Clinical Trial Enabled by NIH GrantNovember 4, 2014 -
An artificial pancreas, the ultimate cure for type 1 diabetes, will be tested in clinical trials as a result of a $1 million National Institutes of Health Grant awarded to Dr. B. Wayne Bequette of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to fund research concerning his closed-loop artificial pancreas developed along with colleagues at Stanford University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Virginia. Frequent insulin injections and blood samples may be a thing of the past for recipients of the device.
RPI celebrates 100 years of chemical engineeringOctober 12, 2014 -
One century ago now, the students and faculty helped shape the young field of chemical engineering, using their talents to advance technologies and find new ways to use a range of chemicals ... “The story of chemical engineering at Rensselaer is the story of a major success,” RPI Dean of Engineering Shekhar Garde said. “When you think about chemical engineering, you think about traditional refining and chemical plants and so on, but over the past 100 years, it has evolved into modern discipline.”
Chemical engineering hits century mark at RPIOctober 12, 2014 -
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute celebrated 100 years of teaching chemical engineering on Thursday with demonstrations by students and faculty on research and discoveries ... Shekhar Garde, dean of the school of engineering at RPI, said the public may perceive chemical engineering to involve mostly oil refineries and chemical plants, but in reality, it involves cutting-edge engineering at the molecular level, involving everything from computer chips to drug development. Chemical engineers are even looking at developing circuitry in cells that could target disease.
RPI biotechnology center celebrates first decadeSeptember 12, 2014 -
TROY >> Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s $100 million Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, now 10 years old, began as a vision shared by RPI President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson in her 1999 inaugural address.
Decade of growth in RPI biotech unitSeptember 10, 2014 -
It was 15 years ago that newly inauguratedRensselaer Polytechnic Institute PresidentShirley Ann Jackson called for the creation of a biotechnology institute that would draw on multiple disciplines to produce breakthroughs in health and medicine.
Rensselaer's Center for Biotechnology andInterdisciplinary Studies, which opened its doors five years later, will celebrate its 10th anniversary Wednesday.
Scientists use 3D printed tissue to study cellsJuly 24, 2014 -
Scientist Guohao Dai, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the U.S, has won the Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation for his research into making replicated human tissues using 3D printing.