Assessing Nanotech Risk

Imaging particle distribution in the lungs. John Links / JHU
Imaging particle distribution in the lungs. Credit: John Links / JHU

From drug delivery tools to environmental sensors to “super“ cleaners, the very small products resulting from nanotechnology are demonstrating big potential to improve the quality of life. Researchers at the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) are involved in both developing new nanotechnologies and analyzing their potential risks.

At the nanoscale, a material’s physical and chemical properties – such as strength, optical absorption, and electrical conductivity – change. These very small materials with different properties are enabling new technologies like nano-sized capsules that can deliver medicine directly to damaged cells in the body. [Read more...]

Life, Synthetically

Piecing together DNA - Sarah Richardson, JHU
The Synthetic Yeast Project is piecing together yeast DNA to create the organism from the bottom up. Credit: Sarah Richardson/Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins biomedical engineer Joel Bader has a lofty goal – keeping a yeast organism alive while painstakingly replacing its DNA piece by piece to construct it synthetically.

Synthetic biology is a relatively new field that aims to make it easier to design and build useful organisms by addressing complex biological questions.

We are working to synthesize yeast chromosomes, and eventually the genome, using a ‘bottom up’ approach,“ says Bader, who is affiliated with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins. [Read more...]

Seminar: Adding Function to Nano

On Oct. 18, Dotsevi Y. Sogah presented a talk on the functionalization of nanoparticles to the Johns Hopkins Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Sogah, a chemistry and chemical biology professor at Cornell University, helped invent group transfer polymerization during previous work at DuPont.

Sogah discussed his group’s research in developing nanocomposites and protein-based polymers. He said he was recently “bitten by the nano bug,“ and is now developing functionalized nanoparticles. “We didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to work on nanoparticles,“ he said. “We had made discoveries about growing polymer chains on silicate from two directions and thought we could make a difference in this area.“ His group aims to apply knowledge of polymerization chemistry to nanotechnology.

Sogah and collaborators have successfully functionalized nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes with biotin by attaching a chemical initiator to the nanoparticle’s surface. Using the streptavidin protein, the researchers have created a template for layered construction of the nanomaterials. The end result is well-dispersed and layered polymer-functionalized nanoparticles.

Incubating Tech Entrepreneurs

For technology entrepreneurs interested in starting a business, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) supports business incubators in Baltimore and around the state.

The following incubators are located within 10 miles of a Johns Hopkins research institution:

Emerging Technology Center at Canton
2400 Boston Street, Suite 300
Baltimore, MD 21224

Emerging Technology Center at Johns Hopkins Eastern
1101 East 33rd Street
Baltimore, MD 21228

1450 South Rolling Road
Baltimore, MD 21227

Neotech Incubator
9250 Bendix Road
Columbia, MD 21045

For more information about business incubation in Maryland and TEDCO programs for technology entrepreneurs, visit

Student Prizes for Cool NanoBio Images

INBT will award one $25 gift certificate each month for a “cool“ nanobio research image, illustration, or graphic submitted by an undergraduate student, graduate student, or post-doctoral fellow.

Images must be the student or post-doc’s original material and it must be relevant to a current nanobiotechnology research project. Each student and post-doc can submit up to three images per month. Images will be judged on visual appeal and depiction of scientific findings. INBT staff will choose one image each month to be featured on the INBT website with credit to the student or post-doc, who will also receive a $25 gift certificate for Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Please submit your image(s) by the 1st of each month to for consideration. Include a caption for each image and your name, lab group, and contact information.

Submit Proposals with INBT

INBT faculty have the opportunity to submit nano-bio related proposals through INBT and receive 10 percent return of indirect costs to the principal investigators. Contact Sue Porterfield, INBT Administrative Manager, by email at or phone at 410-516-3423 for information and guidelines.

NanoBio Graduate Programs

Johns Hopkins was recently awarded two graduate training grant programs – from the National Science Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute – that are being facilitated through INBT.

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) educational grant is funding a new graduate training program in nanotechnology for biology and medicine (NBMed) at Johns Hopkins. The program aims to train engineers and scientists to become adept in the creation of new particles and materials for use in the detection, treatment, prevention, and cure of human disease. Hopkins departments included: Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Civil Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Pharmacology and Molecular Science, and Physics and Astronomy.

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An Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) grant from the National Science Foundation is funding a new graduate training program at Johns Hopkins in physical and biomolecular foundations for designing nanoprobes for the cell and other biological systems. Funded students will develop an advanced physical, materials, and biological understanding of interactions between biological probes and biological systems and become adept with the emerging concepts in genetic engineering and materials synthesis required to create probes. Hopkins departments included: Biology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Physics.

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JHU President States Leadership Goal in Nanobiotech

Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody announced at an October 28 dinner for alumni and benefactors that the Knowledge for the World campaign goal has been raised to $3.2 billion, saying that society faces formidable new challenges and more than ever needs what Hopkins produces: discoveries that make a difference. [Read more...]

Johns Hopkins Supports NIH ‘Common Fund’ for Interdisciplinary Research

Edward D. Miller, M.D., dean and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, spoke in support of draft legislation that encourages additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on September 19. [Read more...]

Over 100 Faculty Now Affiliated with INBT

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology now has 118 affiliated faculty members from the following Johns Hopkins institutions: School of Medicine, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Whiting School of Engineering, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Applied Physics Laboratory. [Read more...]