Emory Report
October 24, 2005
Volume 58, Number 8


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October 24 , 2005
Emory, Tech get five-year National Cancer Institute grant

BY Vincent Dollard

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected a joint Emory-Georgia Tech initiative as one of seven National Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE).

The new center will be named the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology, and it will be housed both in the Winship Cancer Institute (WCI) and on the Georgia Tech campus. It will function as a “discovery accelerator” to integrate nanotechnology into personalized cancer treatments and early detection. The awarded amount is $3.66 million for the first year and is expected to reach $19–$20 million over a five-year period.

With the CCNE designation, Emory and Georgia Tech now possess one of the largest federally funded programs in the United States for biomedical nanotechnology, biomolecular and cellular engineering, cancer bioinformatics and biocomputing, translational cancer research, education and training, intellectual property creation, and nanomedicine commercialization and economic development.

“This grant demonstrates the high level of confidence the National Cancer Institute has in Emory, Georgia Tech and in the state of Georgia,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue. “The progress we have made would not have been possible without collaboration among these universities and agencies such as the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Research Alliance. The state of Georgia is truly at the cutting edge of biomedical research.”

Nanotechnology is research and technology at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, where particles are measured with a nanometer equivalent to one-billionth of a meter, or 100,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair. Coupled with the new genomic understanding of human cancers, nanotechnology offers promise for much earlier cancer detection, personalized diagnostics for targeted treatment and the creation of new nanoscale drugs for metastatic cancers.

Scientists involved in this grant will accelerate the development of “bioconjugated nanoparticles” for cancer molecular imaging, molecular profiling and personalized therapy. Emory and Georgia Tech scientists already have productive research collaborations using major grants from the NIH to develop several kinds of nanoparticle probes, including “quantum dot” nanoparticles: tiny semiconductor particles that have unique electronic and optical properties due to their size and highly compact structure. Quantum dot-based probes can act as markers for specific proteins and cells, and can be used to study protein-protein interactions in live cells or to detect diseased cells.

“Nanotechnology will eventually apply to all cancers; however, this grant is focusing on breast and prostate cancers because they represent a number of compelling challenges and opportunities in cancer research,” said Bill Todd, president and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. “These cancers are among the most common cancers and have high mortality rates, yet there is evidence that, with targeted therapies for these types of cancer, we can improve survival in Georgia and in the nation.”

The CCNE’s director and principal investigator is Shuming Nie, Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Chair and Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory. He also is associate Director for Nanotechnology Bioengineering at WCI, and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar. Co-principal investigator is Jonathan Simons, WCI director and professor of materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech.