Small Science Draws Big Crowd for Johns Hopkins NanoBio Symposium

Poster Session during the 2008 NanoBio Symposium at Johns Hopkins University. (left) Noy Bassik
(right) Jonathan Schneck. Credit: Will Kirk / JHU

A standing-room-only crowd packed Owens Auditorium of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center May 1 to hear how future cancer detection and treatment will involve tools and therapies designed at the scale of molecules and atoms. More than 500 people attended the annual NanoBio Symposium hosted by the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) on May 1 and 2 at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Along with Thursday’s Nanotechnology for Cancer workshop with 10 Hopkins faculty presenters, the symposium featured talks by distinguished speakers and a poster session representing nano-related research from several university divisions and beyond.

“I think the symposium highlights the importance of not only forming cross- divisional collaborations, but cross-school structures that facilitate our ability to organically look at a problem,“ said Jonathan Schneck, professor in the School of Medicine departments of Pathology, Oncology, and Medicine and an affiliated member of both the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and the Kimmel Cancer Center. “This sort of cross-fertilization will help the biologists and clinicians define the issues, while asking the engineers what technologies will need to be developed to address them.“

Schneck presented a talk during the workshop on how the sugar-binding protein lectin can be used to study tumor cells. Other workshop speakers included professors Kenneth Kinzler, PhD and George Sgouros, PhD; associate professor Anirban Maitra, MD, PhD; and assistant professor Luis Diaz, MD from the School of Medicine. From the Whiting School of Engineering, faculty presenters included professors Peter Searson, PhD and Denis Wirtz, PhD; associate professors Justin Hanes, PhD and Konstantinos Konstantopoulos; and assistant professor Tza-Huei Wang, PhD. All are affiliated faculty members of INBT; Searson and Wirtz are INBT’s director and associate director, respectively.

The Friday morning symposium included internationally known scientists from an array of disciplines. Presenters were Donald Ingber, MD, PhD (Harvard Medical School); Andrew Maynard, PhD (Woodrow Wilson Center-Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies); Jeffery Schloss, PhD (National Human Genome Research Institute); Paras Prasad, PhD (University at Buffalo); and Jennifer West, PhD (Rice University). Topics ranged from Maynard’s discussion of the societal and environmental impact of nanotechnology to West’s description of nanoshells that harness the power of near-infrared light to destroy cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

More than 100 research projects were displayed at Friday afternoon’s poster session. “I don’t think there are many places you could go where you could find work of this breadth and depth. It is really impressive,“ said Ted Poehler, research professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who recently stepped down from a 15-year-long post as Johns Hopkins Vice Provost for Research. Poehler was instrumental in the launch of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology in 2006.

Representatives from more than 30 businesses participated in the symposium this year, and several, such as nano-tube fabricator Cromoz, Inc. of North Carolina, also displayed research posters.

“The lectures were of very good quality and the questions asked after the sessions were highly informative,“ said Abdul Allam, founder and president of Cromoz. “Following the talks, the speakers were accessible, which indicates that they are open to collaboration;what matters to me is the work that happens after the symposium.“

Five talented students were awarded prized for their scientific endeavors when a panel of judges selected their posters as among the best on display. According to lead judge Michael Edidin, professor of biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the top posters represented research that “effectively integrated biology and engineering and involved work on the submicron scale.“

Winners were Tim Leong, PhD student, Whiting School of Engineering, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (1st prize, iPod Nano); Sam Lai, PhD student, Whiting School of Engineering, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (2nd prize, iPod Nano); Justin Galloway , PhD student, Whiting School of Engineering, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering, (3rd prize, 2-year subscription to Nature Nanotechnology); Jim Felton, PhD student, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy (4th prize, 1-year subscription to Nature Nanotechnology); and Noy Bassik, MD, PhD student, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Whiting School of Engineering, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (5th prize, Nanoparticles for Biomedical Imaging, co-edited by INBT affiliate faculty member Jeff Bulte of the School of Medicine.)

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology gratefully acknowledges those companies that supported the annual NanoBio Symposium. Gold Sponsors included BAE Systems, Medtronic, Northrop Grumman and Terumo Medical Corp. Bronze Sponsors were Airgas and Greater Baltimore Committee. Prize contributors were Nature Nanotechnology, Springer and INBT.

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology wishes to thank everyone for attending and making the second annual NanoBio Symposium a terrific success! The 2009 NanoBio Symposium will be held in late April or early May; please check back soon for a confirmed date.

Story by Mary Spiro

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