National Cancer Institute and National Science Foundation Launch Collaboration; Training Grants Awarded for Nanobiotechnology
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a collaboration that will establish integrative training environments for U.S. science and engineering doctoral students to focus on interdisciplinary nanoscience and technology research with applications to cancer. Through this partnership, $12.8 million in grants are being awarded to four institutions over the next five years.
Nanotechnology, the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular scale, has significant potential in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. The application of nanotechnology to cancer requires cross-disciplinary training in biological and physical sciences, and at present there are not enough individuals with such training. The NCI's Cancer Nanotechnology Plan and the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer identified the need for such a cross-trained scientific workforce as essential to 21st century research and development.
"In recognition of the potential of nanotechnology to overcome challenges in cancer research, we have undertaken a major commitment to the field through the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. The NCI-NSF collaboration and other training and education programs are a vital part of that Alliance, enabling us to build a cadre of appropriately cross-trained investigators without whom we cannot envision development of a pipeline of new diagnostics and therapeutics," said Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., NCI director.
"These awards represent an exciting new model for collaboration between federal agencies, that not only makes wise use of budget resources, but also opens new channels for bringing promising new technologies to bear on an important health problem that touches nearly all of us," said NSF Deputy Director Kathie L. Olsen, Ph.D.
Today's awards were granted through NSF's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program (IGERT). The IGERT program is intended to facilitate greater diversity in student participation and preparation and contribute to the development of a diverse, globally-engaged science and engineering workforce.
All of the four selected projects, each of which will support approximately 30 students, are linked to regional cancer centers and the biomedical research community:
- Integrative Nanoscience and Microsystems, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M. This program is a collaboration between the University of New Mexico's Center for High Technology Materials within the School of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Cancer Research and Treatment Center. The collective goal is to prepare diverse graduates with a comprehensive understanding of multiple scientific disciplines, who can then utilize nanoscale phenomena to create macroscopic functionality in three technical emphasis areas: biointerfaces, information nanotechnology, and complex functional materials. The principal investigator is Diana Huffaker, Ph.D.
- NanoPharmaceutical Engineering and Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J. This collaboration between Rutgers, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the University of Puerto Rico, will prepare a diverse set of trainees to develop a wide array of nanoparticle-based biocompatible drug delivery systems, including DNA-based delivery systems for brain cancer, and preventive agents. The project will include training in nanoparticle product and process design. The program, which will coordinate with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, will also provide training opportunities with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in New Jersey and Puerto Rico. The principal investigator is Fernando Muzzio, Ph.D.
- Nanomedical Science and Technology, Northeastern University, Boston, Mass. This project will establish a new interdisciplinary doctoral education program in Nanomedical Science and Technology, with a multidisciplinary faculty that will work together to develop solutions to complex problems at the interface of nanotechnology, biotechnology and medicine. The program aims to educate the next generation of scientists and technologists with the requisite skill sets to address the scientific and engineering challenges of applying nanotechnology to human health, with the necessary business, ethical and global perspectives. The project will also involve investigators from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital. The principal investigator is Srinivas Sridhar, Ph.D.
- Building Leadership for the Nanotechnology Workforce of Tomorrow, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. This joint institute for nanotechnology involving University of Washington, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will focus on new directions in bionanotechnology. Such directions include medical applications of nanoscale platforms; use of nanoscale tools to understand biological mechanisms underlying disease and to diagnose and treat disease; and combining expertise and techniques across physical science, biomedicine and engineering. The principal investigator is Marjorie Olmstead, Ph.D.
"This is an unusual and important opportunity," noted Larry Sklar, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and one of several NCI-funded investigators on the faculty who will guide the New Mexico project. "This program formalizes the emerging partnership between engineering and biomedical research and provides the pathway for building relationships that will lead to new discoveries. Our project is all about building technology platforms, and those platforms can now be applied to the complex challenges of cancer biology."
Along with other NCI training grants being awarded this month, the NCI-NSF awards address the full spectrum of training and education needs at graduate school, postdoctoral, and mid-career levels highlighted as priorities in the NCI's Cancer Nanotechnology Plan. The award program will be jointly overseen by NSF and NCI through the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer.
The $144.3 million five-year NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is a comprehensive, integrated initiative encompassing researchers, clinicians, and public and private organizations that have joined forces to develop and translate cancer-related nanotechnology research into clinical practice. The Alliance was launched in September 2004.
"The IGERT program is a shining example of the integration of education and research at NSF," said Deba Dutta, Ph.D., IGERT program director who worked with NCI to establish this collaboration. "This will provide our science and engineering doctoral students unique opportunities to participate in nanotechnology innovations that affect the nation's health. We are excited about this collaboration and are looking forward to working together with NCI on this important endeavor."
"We believe that by providing a critical mass of individuals who are prepared to work in a multi-disciplinary environment, these grants will accelerate the application of nanotechnology to specific cancer needs, such as the development of research tools to identify new biological targets, agents to monitor and predict molecular changes, imaging agents and diagnostics to detect cancer, novel targeting devices to deliver therapeutic agents, and systems to provide real-time assessments of therapeutic and surgical efficacy," noted Leland Hartwell, Ph.D., President and Director, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The IGERT program, initiated in 1997 and now comprising approximately 150 projects nationwide, has been developed to meet the challenges of educating Ph.D. scientists, engineers, and educators in the U.S. with the interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in chosen disciplines, and technical, professional, and personal skills to become, in their own careers, the leaders and creative agents for change. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education, for students, faculty, and institutions, by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. Projects funded through the IGERT program seek to increase the participation of underrepresented groups, including women and minorities, in doctorate programs in the engineering, science and mathematics fields, thereby tapping into a bountiful resource opportunity to advance cancer research.
For more information on the NCI-NSF partnership, please visit http://nano.cancer.gov.
For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4 CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
For more information on the National Science Foundation, please visit http://www.nsf.gov.