|Message from Director|
“All research and technology indicators suggest that biotechnology and information technology (IT), coupled with the convergence of microsystems and nanotechnologies, are closely aligned with global and societal priorities, and primary drivers of economic growth. They will dominate the future.
Biotechnology is already transforming health care and agriculture, and opening up enormous possibilities for sustainable resource management.
Welcome to the updated website for Rensselaer's Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS). The CBIS' vision is to be a pacesetter nationally for fundamental and applied research in biotechnology, thereby leading to new discoveries and applications, and new commercial ventures. From complex biological networks to nanoscale assemblies that mimic biological processes, scientists and engineers in the CBIS are striving to elucidate the molecular basis of biological mechanisms and disease, to exploit biological systems for the discovery and development of new therapeutics, and to develop new cellular niches critical in tissue regeneration. As a result of CBIS’ focus at the interface of the life sciences, physical and computational sciences, and engineering, new tools are being developed to delve into and better understand biology and ultimately to design new products and processes that will benefit society.
Of course, the success of the CBIS is built on the faculty, students, and staff as they ARE the center. Through extensive collaborations, innovative research teams have formed in multidisciplinary areas such as nanotechnology, regenerative medicine, and drug discovery. Some key examples include:
· Drug safety – Developing new high-throughput platforms that enable rapid identification of drug candidates, chemicals, and biologics that may be toxic, thereby flagging them as potential concerns in drug development.
· Molecular bioprocessing – Devising methods and processes for the production of critical biologics that are fundamentally based on molecularly engineering proteins, proteoglycans, and related molecules. An example in this arena is the development of a bioengineered heparin that can be used as a replacement of the animal sourced drug free from contamination and disease.
· Antimicrobial composites – From MRSA-killing enzyme-based nanocomposites to identifying molecular mechanisms to overcome to biofilm formation, CBIS researchers are defeating pathogens in myriad unique ways.
· Alzheimer’s and other brain illnesses – Gaining a fundamental knowledge of protein misholding and aggregation and protein structure, CBIS researchers are unlocking molecular and cellular mechanisms that are at the core of Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s diseases.
· Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine – Through molecular, cellular, and tissue-level studies, CBIS researchers are developing new models to repair damaged tissues, regenerate organs, and predict disease. A critical mass of researchers are involved in stem cell biotechnology with focus in the tissue regeneration and high-thorough screening.
The past year has been highly successful for the CBIS. Research awards have approached $12 million, over 90% from federal sources such as NIH, NSF, DOE, among others. Industrial consortia have been initiated, including one that is focused on developing the next generation of the blood thinner heparin based on safe and reliable bioprocessing rather than isolation from animals. In 2010 our faculty, students, and postdocs/research scientists published over 150 papers in a wide range of top journals in their respective fields. Most exciting, though, is that our center continues to grow. In the past few months, we have been pleased to welcome the following new faculty to the CBIS who bring expertise in a diverse array of research areas, including molecular genetics, tissue engineering, and biocatalysis & metabolic engineering.
· Patrick Maxwell – Maxwell is investigating the influence of genome instability on aging by examining the consequences of accumulating mutations and chromosome rearrangements, of DNA repair processes, and of DNA damage signaling during aging. Particular emphasis is being placed on how mobile genetic elements known as retrotransposons promote genome instability and influence aging.
· Shiva Kotha - Kotha’s research interests lie broadly in the area of developing multi-functional materials and devices to understand and control cell/ tissue function. His research areas include cell and tissue mechanics, mechanobiology, multi-functional materials, and the development of minimally invasive modalities for imaging and treatment.
· Ryan Gilbert - Gilbert's research laboratory focuses on the development of novel biomaterial scaffolds for the treatment of spinal cord injury. Specifically, the Gilbert lab is developing injectable hydrogels and drug-releasing polymers with the goal of 1) reducing secondary injury following acute spinal cord injury and 2) promoting guided regeneration of axons through the acuts and chronically-injured spinal cord.
· Mattheos Koffas - The central theme of Koffas' research is metabolic engineering of unicellular organisms with the purpose of efficiently producing high value chemicals, such as nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, and proteins of therapeutic importance. Within this context, several different approaches are applied, including 1) development of computational tools to enable allow the prediction of genetic modifications that would result in increasing the flux in a pathway of interest; 2) protein engineering to allow the functional expression of eukaryotic enzymes in simple microorganisms; and 3) identification of previously unknown metabolic enzymes, with emphasis on enzymes involved in targeted hydroxylations and glycosylations.
In the past year, 27 Ph.D. students within CBIS have graduated from the core departments represented in the center, and approximately 50 new Ph.D. students have joined the center.
On our web pages you will meet some of our CBIS faculty, students, and staff. You will see our beautiful 218,000 sq. ft. facility together with state-of-the-art core facilities that enable biomolecular and cellular research to be performed. Rensselaer builds on its initial nearly $150 million commitment to biotechnology research and education that involves facilities, faculty hires, and research and educational programs. I invite you to explore our Center and learn how Rensselaer's investment in biotechnology is changing the world.
Deepak Vashishth, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies