Director's Message

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies this year, we can reflect with pride on the achievements of our first decade and look forward to the promise of future discoveries and their applications to the benefit of society.

Biotechnology brings together Rensselaer’s rich traditions in science and engineering. These strengths have allowed us to create a premier space for pioneering research in a unique building that was designed to encourage and enable multidisciplinary collaborations. As a result of the center’s focus on both fundamental and applied research in biotechnology, new tools are being developed to delve into and better understand biology and ultimately to design new products and processes that will address key challenges and opportunities in health care, including drug safety, disease diagnosis and treatment, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.

Rensselaer has put its stamp on biotechnology research. In our first decade, CBIS scientists and engineers have created:

  • Bioengineered therapeutics and anti-bacterial coatings for medical devices;
  • High-throughput diagnostic chips that enable rapid identification of drug candidates as well as toxins;
  • Bioengineered molecules, including a contamination-free form of the anticoagulant heparin;
  • Nanoscale therapeutics that inhibit anthrax toxins, and
  • Stem cell bioengineering to aid in treatment of diseases including Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.

Looking ahead, we envision continued contributions to the development of personalized medicine—which is really the holy grail of biotechnology and other health-related research that is taking place at Rensselaer and around the world. To promote these endeavors we are establishing affiliations that will contribute valuable resources to our existing strengths.

Harnessing Big Data. New and uncharted territory, being explored at CBIS, is at the interface of the life sciences, physical sciences, computation, and engineering. It is at this frontier where we look forward to working in partnership with the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA) to help advance and elevate our research enterprise. IDEA is a campus initiative that harnesses the wealth of data science research taking place at Rensselaer.

Biologics. The first target will be biologics, an area of distinct strength within CBIS based on the data-driven understanding of proteomics, protein regulation, and gene regulation. Still an emerging field, biologics -- manufactured in CBIS through a robust control of biological processes including enzymes and cells -- has yielded promising new advancements for treating different ailments and for developing next generation of scaffolds to engineer stem cell responses and regenerate lost and diseased tissues. Success requires taking an integrated approach involving biologists, chemists, chemical and biomedical engineers, process engineers, and computational scientists. 

High-Throughput Screening. Another area of research at CBIS that will benefit from the data toolsets and interdisciplinary environment is high-throughput screening—a technique used to identify the unique protein “fingerprint” of an individual’s healthy or diseased tissue, which can help early diagnosis of illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer and osteoporosis.

Partnership with Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine. These and other research challenges are milestones on the path to truly personalized medicine and preventive care, where physicians and surgeons are able to make increasingly objective decisions based on each patient’s unique biology and informed by fast, accurate computer simulations. To promote this outcome, we have established a partnership with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with whom we will collaborate on educational programs, research, and the development and commercialization of new diagnostic tools and treatments that promote human health and drive down health care costs.

Pathways to Future BreakthroughsCBIS was created through President Jackson’s Rensselaer plan 10 years ago and it continues to be an important contributor to the “Renaissance at Rensselaer.” We are breaking traditional disciplinary boundaries and bringing together various faculties to create new science, ideas and products.  New initiatives underway include “Biotech meets Bioart” (with School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences), “Green Wall” (with the School of Architecture) and “Bioentrepreneurs” (with the Lally School of Management).

Biotechnology and biomedical research hold enormous promise for improving human health and welfare. The vision to embrace biotechnology research at Rensselaer and the investment in people, programs, and facilities have resulted in a thriving Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. With solid outcomes in our first decade, we move confidently forward in research endeavors that will truly benefit us all.

Deepak Vashishth, Director