Questions and Answers

How small is nanotechnology?

Very small. To give you an idea, one nanometer (nm) is about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at length scales less than 1,000 nm. The building blocks for nanotechnology are atoms and molecules that are typically 0.1 nm to 10 nm in size. Manipulating matter at these small length scales requires tools and devices capable of doing the job. Scientists need to be able to work at a scale 1,000 times smaller than conventional optical microscopes. You could say it’s a tiny science with huge research and technology potential.

What is nanobiotechnology?

Nanobiotechnology is an emerging field of research and development that seeks new solutions to pressing health and environmental problems by combining physical sciences and engineering with life sciences and medicine. This exciting frontier of discovery is generating new therapies, devices, diagnostic tools, and a better understanding of the relationship between cells and disease. For example, very small devices are now enabling new kinds of minimally invasive medical procedures. Nanobiotechnology represents the future of medicine and healthcare.

What is the Institute for NanoBioTechnology?

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) is a Johns Hopkins University institute for integrated nano- and biotechnology research, education, and outreach. INBT aims to revolutionize health care by bringing together internationally-renowned faculty expertise, students, and world-class research facilities in medicine, engineering, the sciences, and public health to create groundbreaking technologies.

Why Johns Hopkins?

The interface between nanotechnology and biotechnology involves synthesis and fabrication of materials and devices, surface and molecular engineering, in vitro studies, animal studies, and clinical trials. To be successful in nanobiotechnology, institutions need a strong base in engineering, the physical sciences, biology, medicine, and public health. Johns Hopkins University is one of the few institutions in the world with all of the necessary components to create a successful nanobiotechnology center and to establish a leadership role in this field.

Who is INBT?

Faculty, students, and affiliated companies are all components of INBT. To solve the complex scientific and technological problems associated with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, multidisciplinary teams must work on these problems together. Faculty affiliated with INBT are also members of Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Public Health and the Applied Physics Laboratory. INBT facilitates educational programs for students specific to nanobiotechnology, including graduate training programs and a planned undergraduate minor. INBT also has an industrial affiliates program for companies involved in nanobiotechnology.

Where is INBT located?

INBT headquarters is located in suite 100 of Croft Hall on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Facilities and faculty are located at several other Johns Hopkins locations.

What is the focus of INBT research efforts?

INBT research is organized into three core research areas: diagnostics and therapeutics, cellular and molecular dynamics, and health and the environment.

  • Diagnostics and therapeutics includes the development of devices that can both diagnose and treat disease inside the body.
  • Cellular and molecular dynamics includes manipulating cells to investigate biological functions and disease progression.
  • Health and the environment includes studying the effects of nanotechnology on the environment and public health and examining potential nanobiotechnology solutions, including environmental remediation.

What is the focus of INBT educational efforts?

Education programs at INBT are designed to foster the next wave of nanobiotechnology innovation. Key goals include training a new generation of scientists and engineers better able to work between physical sciences/engineering fields and life sciences/medicine fields and creating an entrepreneurial environment for students. INBT currently facilitates graduate programs in nanobiotechnology. Education opportunities in the animation of nanobiotechnology concepts and in science writing are also offered to students.

Who funds INBT?

INBT was launched in May 2006. Supportive funding has been provided by the following Johns Hopkins schools: Whiting School of Engineering, the School of Medicine, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. INBT also has an industrial affiliates program open to companies involved in aspects of nanobiotechnology such as drug and gene delivery, biomedical imaging, medical diagnostics, medical instrumentation, cell sorting and separations, biosensors, and materials and chemicals. Individual research and education projects are funded by federal agencies, private foundations, and philanthropy.