Release Date: February 8, 2011
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The National Universities Commission of Nigeria has selected the University at Buffalo's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics as its partner to form the Nigerian American Nanomedicine Organization, which will establish Joint Research Centers in Nigeria and at ILPB.
A high-profile delegation including Nigerian National Assembly member Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa and National Universities Commission (NUC) Director Professor Chiedu Mafiana travelled to Buffalo last month to sign a memorandum of understanding to establish the Nigerian American Nanomedicine Organization (NANO).
The organization's primary focus will be on the application of nanotechnology to health care. It will be headed by Paras N. Prasad, ILPB director and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the departments of chemistry, physics, electrical engineering and medicine.
The Nigerian delegation emphasized the importance of investing in building scientific infrastructure in their country to provide new opportunities for education, research and economic development.
According to Mafiana, "We look forward to partnering with a world leader like UB that can help us develop our scientific infrastructure. This is a bold step that will go a long way toward the NUC's vision for creating opportunities in frontier areas of research and technology."
Dabiri Ewera said that she made the trip to UB in order to offer "my strongest support for the development of this joint research center."
Establishment of NANO represents the culmination of an effort led by Folarin Erogbogbo, a UB scientist who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, then earned both his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at UB and is now research assistant professor and group leader for cancer nanotechnology in the ILPB.
When he began his work at the institute after graduating from UB in 2009 with a doctorate in chemical and biological engineering, he was struck by the international diversity of his colleagues, a credit, he says, to Prasad.
"When it comes to international collaboration, Dr. Prasad is very open-minded," says Erogbogbo. "He has developed collaborations where students and visitors come here from other countries like China and Russia, they spend time working in his lab and then they go back to their home countries with this new knowledge and experience. That's what inspired the idea."
With guidance from Prasad, Erogbogbo began making inquiries to the National Universities Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, and to some of his personal contacts there, including Dabiri Ewera, ultimately leading to the formation of NANO.
According to Erogbogbo and Prasad, the primary goal of the agreement is to boost the level of scientific research at Nigerian universities.
"The ranking of universities in the world depends on criteria that African universities don't necessarily follow," Erogbogbo says. "Scientists are publishing papers but not always in the journals that will help the university's reputation. In our memorandum of understanding, we have deliverables designed to boost the standards and the ranking of Nigerian universities, to make them more renowned, internationally.
"The idea is for the Nigerian scientists to come here to learn these cutting-edge technologies and to provide top-of-the-line training to them beyond what is available right now at their home institutions," Erogbogbo continues. "They will then take it back with them, to facilitate the transfer of these technologies, enabling the Nigerian scientists and their institutions to be more competitive."
Research will focus on nanomedicine, including a new generation of biocompatible silicon-based nanomaterials that Erogbogbo has developed, based on research he began with his doctoral advisor, Mark Swihart, PhD, UB professor of chemical and biological engineering, and has continued with Prasad. The goal is to develop nanomaterials for the in vivo and in vitro diagnosis and treatment of human diseases, especially cancer.
In addition to Erogbogbo, Prasad and Swihart, Kenneth Tramposch, PhD, associate vice president for research and John Wood, associate vice provost, Office of International Education, also participated in the development of the NANO agreement.
During their visit, the Nigerian delegation also met with other UB nanomedicine researchers, as well as leading members of the Nigerian diaspora in the Buffalo region.
The UB researchers are all active participants in the strategic strength in Integrated Nanostructured Systems identified in the UB 2020 planning process, which brings together researchers in the physical and life sciences, medicine and engineering to promote interdisciplinary advancements.
The ILPB is a global leader in research on nanophotonics, the science behind light and matter interacting on the nanoscale, biophotonics, the science behind the ways that light and biological matter interact and on applications of these technologies to achieve advances in nanomedicine.