Johns Hopkins Researchers Appointed to Governor’s Task Force to Study Nanobiotechnology

Peter Searson

Steve Desiderio

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has appointed Peter Searson and Steve Desiderio, two researchers from The Johns Hopkins University, to serve on a special task force to study the benefits of nanobiotechnology.

According to the governor’s office, the mission of the task force is “to study the benefits of nanobiotechnology including job creation, the development of lifesaving treatments, reductions in health care costs, the development of state-of-the-art electronics, medical equipment, chemical processes and other commercial products.”

Nanotechnology involves the application of materials and devices at the scale of just a few atoms in diameter. Nanobiotechnology attempts to apply these tiny technologies to medicine and basic science.

Searson is the Joseph R. and Lynn C. Reynolds Professor of Engineering in the university’s Whiting School of Engineering. He is a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and he directs the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in England and was a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives in Baltimore.

Desiderio is director of the Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences, director of the Immunobiology Program at the Institute for Cell Engineering and a professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Desiderio earned his M.D. and a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Desiderio also lives in Baltimore.

Both Searson and Desiderio are involved with research related to nanobiotechnology. Searson’s interests include nanoscience, biophysics and bioengineering. He led the launch of the Institute for Nanobiotechnology, which was established in 2006 as a cross-divisional center with research interests in the basic sciences, engineering, medicine and public health.

Desiderio’s research focuses on the immune system: how immune cells are able to recognize a diverse number of pathogens and respond to environmental cues. He studies the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying the development of the immune system. In 2007, Desiderio was appointed by O’Malley to the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board.

The nanobiotechnology task force will be chaired by state Sen. Jennie M. Forehand and Del. Susan C. Lee. In addition to Searson and Desiderio, task force members include Nariman Farvadin, Peter Swaan, Esther H. Chang, Lisbeth Pettengill, Patrick Y. Lu and Lawrence Tamarkin.

Along with examining the scientific and medical benefits of nanobiotechnology, the task force members expect to look at the economic impact that the development of such technologies might have on the state of Maryland, including the creation of jobs.

The governor’s office also stated that the group will study the “generation of revenue for the state and improvements to the quality of life for the state’s citizens and the state’s role in supporting Maryland’s leadership in nanobiotechnology, including: promoting public-private partnerships; assisting companies in technology transfers, including from research to commercial product; promoting research; protecting intellectual property; offering appropriate financial incentives; including tax credits; and capturing and leveraging federal funds for both public and private ventures; and make recommendations regarding actions that the state should take to promote the growth of the nanobiotechnology industries in the state.”

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