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Oishei Foundation Grant Funds UB Nanomedicine Program

Release Date: September 9, 2004

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The nanomedicine program of the University at Buffalo's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics is moving beyond the benchtop, thanks to a $925,000 grant to the institute from the John R. Oishei Foundation.

The Oishei grant will allow the institute to extend the impact of its discoveries and developments in nanomedicine and nanobiotechnology -- fields concerned with developing new diagnostic devices and therapies on the scale of one-billionth of a meter -- and to advance them to the clinical stage.

"The foundation immediately recognized the potential for this work to have an enormous, perhaps field-altering impact on medicine," said Thomas Baker, president of the Oishei Foundation. "It is most impressive that Dr. Paras Prasad has assembled an outstanding group of scientists from across disciplines and already has made serious progress. We're fortunate and very pleased to have the resources to step in and help at this point of the research."

UB President John B. Simpson thanked the Oishei Foundation, noting that it "has long recognized the significance and scope of pioneering research initiatives like our interdisciplinary programs in nanomedicine and biotechnology, and we count ourselves very fortunate to have such a strong and steadfast champion of such research initiatives."

"UB's nanomedicine program promises to have a revolutionary and truly global impact on 21st-century medical research," Simpson added. "This grant is a profoundly meaningful expression of the Oishei Foundation's commitment to partnering with UB to advance vital, potentially life-saving research, and we are deeply, deeply grateful for that commitment."

Paras N. Prasad, Ph.D., executive director of the institute, said the Oishei grant "marks a major turning point in the institute's nanomedicine program.

"It is providing us with the necessary tools to start turning our achievements in nanomedicine at the basic-science level into prototypes that can be tested clinically," added Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

Prasad said that during the next few years government agencies will be allocating major resources to nanomedical research. "The Oishei grant," he added, "positions Buffalo to compete for unprecedented new opportunities for funding and visibility in nanomedicine."

A primary focus of the grant will be recruitment and start-up support for a distinguished senior scientist whose expertise lies in applying nano-systems to animal models, the critical next step in getting nanomedical advances closer to the clinic.

The grant also will fund the recruitment and support of new research fellows who will implement research across the disciplines, as well as materials and supplies.

The institute has a broad, multidisciplinary emphasis, linking researchers in UB's College of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"To our knowledge, ours is the only program in the world that connects academic units in the sciences, medicine and engineering to achieve the integration of materials, lasers, nanotechnology and biomedical research that nanomedical research requires," Prasad said.

Nanomedical advances developed by the institute include new, minimally invasive diagnostic methods, targeted delivery systems for drugs and genes, new methods of boosting photodynamic cancer therapy, new modes of medical imaging and ways to monitor drug effects in real-time.

A key focus for the institute lies in expanding testing and applications for its unique, patented nanoparticles, a multiple-use, silica nanoshell, dubbed the "nanoclinic," that can be constructed and used in different ways to treat human disease.

"While other groups are focusing on using nanoparticles to carry a payload inside," explained Prasad, "our group is exploring and exploiting all aspects of nanoparticles -- not just their ability to carry drugs or genes, for example, but also attaching to their surfaces treatments or probes and developing porous nanoparticles, which allow for diffusion of substances in and out."

The institute has filed for, and in some instances received, patents for a broad range of applications, including:

-- Porous nanoparticles that allow for more effective biodistribution of drugs that otherwise aggregate in body fluids to cause problems

-- Bioadhesive nanoparticles that serve as ocular drug-delivery vehicles, overcoming the extensive drug loss that occurs with water-soluble ophthalmic medicines

-- Magnetic nanoparticles that selectively rupture membranes of cancer cells when activated, potentially allowing cancer patients to receive treatments through ordinary magnetic resonance imaging procedures in their doctors' offices

Also under development at the institute are nanoparticles that function as carriers for diagnostic-imaging agents that enhance MRI scans, X-rays and other diagnostic-imaging techniques and gene therapy vectors that carry none of the immunogenic problems of viral vectors.

The institute's researchers have formed strong research collaborations with those at other institution, including Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Kaleida Health System.

The John R. Oishei Foundation is committed to enhancing the quality of life for Buffalo-area residents by supporting education, health care, scientific research, and the cultural, social, civic and other charitable needs of the community. The foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corp., one of the world's leading manufacturers of windshield wiper systems.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
Senior Editor, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum