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Johnson & Johnson Gives $180,000 to UB for Development of Smart Sensor System

By Mary Cochrane

Release Date: June 1, 2004

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Johnson & Johnson, through its Focused Giving Program, has committed $180,000 to the University at Buffalo to develop a biologically inspired smart sensor system (BIS3) that would have potential applications in medical and industrial situations, and that could enhance U.S. military efforts to improve homeland security.

The grant to the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) will support a project led by two faculty members in the Department of Electrical Engineering -- Albert H. Titus, assistant professor, and Alexander N. Cartwright, associate professor -- conducted through the UB Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics.

SEAS Dean Mark H. Karwan expressed his appreciation to Johnson & Johnson for its support of the research on sensor technology.

"This is a great opportunity for us to interact with Johnson & Johnson, the world's most comprehensive and broadly based manufacturer of health-care products and a provider of related services," Karwan said. "It is an affirmation of the strength of our engineering and sensors program and the progress we've made in this area."

Paras N. Prasad, executive director of the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences and Samuel P. Capen Chair, said the Johnson & Johnson grant "will allow the institute under the direction of Professors Titus and Cartwright to develop basic innovative biological and chemical sensors that can be embedded easily within a sensor network. It will provide an important impetus in maintaining the institute's leadership in this very important area."

The Focused Giving Program opens doors to new scientific developments, said Theodore Torphy, corporate vice president of science and technology for Johnson & Johnson, as well as promoting mutually beneficial relationships between scientists at Johnson & Johnson and those at universities and research centers.

"We are achieving a significant expansion of our own scientific capabilities and opportunities through the Focused Giving network, and this cannot help but lead to more and better health-care products in the future," Torphy said.

Titus said that while many other research projects exist on sensor technology, the approach of the UB project is "unique and, combined with the sensor technology we are developing, will be successful."

Titus said a fully developed smart sensor system could be used for health monitoring of buildings, with the sensors monitoring and responding "to targeted toxins or hazards."

The proposed system in the UB study integrates the specificity of immunological selection, nanotechnology, fiber optics and electro-flexible polymeric membranes as a prototype for the detection of targeted biologics. Titus explained that such a system could be designed to detect the presence and quantity of certain biologic elements.

"The intelligence of the system enables it to respond and perhaps make other measurements to verify the initial reading, and then respond in other ways," he said.

As research advances, Titus said the technology could lead to other uses, including life support.

"Ultimately, the goal would be to have a self-contained system that can supplement organ function in the human body," he said.

The Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics is a multidisciplinary research center that incorporates the expertise of chemists, physicists, engineers and biomedical researchers. The institute's work in smart sensor technology involves the integration of photonics technology -- from photonics communications, to photonics-based sensors, to hybrid electronic/ photonic processing for a distributed smart sensor network -- with chemical and biological detection modalities.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs.

Johnson & Johnson, founded in 1886, has 110,600 employees in more than 200 operating companies in 57 countries around the world, selling products in more than 175 countries.

Since the inception of the Focused Giving Program at Johnson & Johnson in 1980, more than $46 million has been awarded to academic investigators doing basic research to advance science and technology in medical fields. Huw M.L. Davies, Ph.D., UB Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Larkin Professor of Organic Chemistry, received a Focused Giving grant in 2000.