Gerecht and Mao named new INBT leadership

Leadership duties for Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) will pass to professors Sharon Gerecht and Hai-Quan Mao of the Whiting School of Engineering, effective January 1, 2017. Gerecht will serve as Director and Mao will serve as Associate Director. Current INBT director, Peter Searson of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Associate Director, Denis Wirtz, the University’s Vice Provost for Research and Theophilus H. Smoot Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will step down after 10 years; they will remain at Hopkins.

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Sharon Gerecht, Hai-Quan Mao will lead INBT effective Jan. 1, 2017.

“Both Sharon and Hai-Quan embrace INBT’s original vision, which seeks to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines to solve problems at the interface of nanotechnology and medicine,” said INBT’s founding director Peter Searson and Joseph R. and Lynn P. Reynolds Professor. “Their contributions to multidisciplinary research, commitment to technology transfer, and vision in educating the next generation of leaders in nanobiotechnology made Sharon and Hai-Quan ideal candidates for the job. Denis and I are delighted to pass the baton to two outstanding faculty members who both have a remarkable track record of innovation and translation.”

Gerecht, the Kent Gordon Croft Investment Faculty Scholar, is a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her research focuses on ways to control the fate of stem cells, which are the most fundamental building blocks of tissues and organs. She was the inaugural winner of the University President’s Frontier Award.

Mao is a professor in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, and currently holds a joint appointment in the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research is focused on engineering novel nano-structured materials for nerve regeneration and therapeutic delivery. He won the University’s 2015 Cohen Translational Engineering Award and a 2015 University Discovery Award.

“Since its inception, INBT has been a leader in cross-divisional research at Johns Hopkins. Under Sharon and Hai-Quan’s leadership will further the institute’s mission to advance research and education at the intersection of engineering, medicine, and health.” said Whiting School dean Ed Schlesinger.

INBT was launched in May 2006, with $4M funding from Senator Barbara Mikulski.

“At that time, Denis and I anticipated that there would be new opportunities for physical scientists and engineers to collaborate with biomedical researchers and clinicians in solving problems in medicine, specifically problems at the molecular and nanoscale,” Searson said. “Since multidisciplinary collaborations across departments and divisions were not prevalent then, the deans of medicine, public health, engineering, and arts and sciences supported the creation of the institute to build the infrastructure to support and promote these efforts.” Then university president, William H. Brody arranged a meeting with Senator Barbara Mikulski, who officially launched the Institute on May 15, 2016.

Today INBT has more than 250 affiliated faculty members. INBT’s research occurs across all university campuses, but primarily in the 26,000 square feet of laboratory space for the 18 researchers located in Croft Hall on the University’s Homewood campus. Croft Hall serves as a focal point for INBT activities and headquarters for staff, where researchers from eight departments in the Whiting School of Engineering and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine collaborate under one roof.

“INBT has catalyzed multidisciplinary research across the university,” said Landon King, executive vice dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “The collaborations between engineers, scientists, and clinicians initiated by INBT have led to numerous discoveries, partnerships, and new companies.”

Since its launch, INBT researchers have generated more than $80 million in research funding. The institute manages a diverse portfolio of research projects and has established numerous research centers and initiatives, including the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, Center for Digital Pathology, and the Blood-Brain Barrier working group. INBT researchers have created more than 15 companies including Circulomics, Cancer Targeting Systems, Gemstone Biotherapeutics, Asclepyx, and LifeSprout.

INBT supports numerous education and training programs. An award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2006 provided the support for the development of the NanoBio training program. With funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, 89 PhDs have been awarded to students from eight departments in the Whiting School of Engineering and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. INBT also supports a post-doctoral training program.

INBT is home to an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, which has supported 104 students over eight years, and receives more than 700 applicants for 10 internships each year. All of these students have gone on to graduate studies in science and engineering. In addition, INBT hosts an International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program, providing internships for undergraduate and graduate students to work at IMEC, a world-class nano-fabrication facility in Leuven, Belgium.

In 2015, INBT launched an undergraduate research group as a way to build a community of students working in research labs. The more than 100 undergraduate student researchers are represented by the undergraduate leadership council, which organizes numerous professional development and social events to support and promote the research experience.

Story by Mary Spiro

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