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International Partnership to Develop Healthcare Technologies

$55 million research institute in emerging field of nanomedicine is launched

Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) is collaborating with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore to establish the NTU-Northwestern Institute for Nanomedicine. Both universities are putting in substantive investments in this multi-million dollar research institute that will focus on the medical application of nanotechnology.

The medical field is an area in which nanotechnology is expected to have the most profound impact and benefit to society, and the new institute is poised to realize significant advances. The NTU-Northwestern Institute for Nanomedicine will support a global group of scientists working on joint research projects in the areas of disease diagnostics, timed-release therapeutics and targeted drug delivery methods, which would greatly increase the efficacy of existing drugs.

Institute researchers also will design new methodologies, such as gene silencing and theranostics, to treat diseases.

Bertil Andersson, president of Nanyang Technological University, announced the collaboration Feb. 17 at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting held in Chicago.

“This partnership with Northwestern and its International Institute for Nanotechnology is a testament to NTU’s growing reputation as a new powerhouse in nanomedicine research,” Andersson said. “The world-class expertise of professor Chad Mirkin and his colleagues at the International Institute for Nanotechnology in biodetection and nanotheraputics is a perfect match for NTU’s expertise in drug delivery systems and biomaterials engineering.

“The future in the delivery of drugs is in nanomedicine, which allows the medicine to be conveyed to the intended location that needs treatment,” Andersson said. “In short, it’s medicine delivery with a postal address.”

“This is a great opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of two outstanding universities to use nanotechnology to explore solutions to some of the most devastating medical problems,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. “This partnership is a wonderful example of Northwestern’s commitment to engage internationally in ways that will heighten global impact for the greater good.”

Chad Mirkin, director of the IIN, the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a scientific advisor to President Barack Obama, and Vinayak Dravid, IIN director of global partnerships, the Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and director Northwestern’s Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center, will lead the institute effort at Northwestern.

Chad Mirkin“We have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with NTU,” Mirkin said. “The commitment of both institutions in the establishment of this important new institute for nanomedicine will strengthen and expand the existing ties and provide a fertile foundation for exciting new medical advancements. We are very much looking forward to working with our colleagues both here and at NTU to launch this new endeavor.”  

Freddy Boey, NTU provost and a longtime collaborator of Mirkin’s, said, “Northwestern University and NTU go back a long way. We have worked together previously on various research projects. This new institute formalizes our relationship and takes it to a higher level.”

“Successful collaborations between academic institutions require significant and enduring faculty involvement,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said. “Northwestern and NTU faculty have been collaborating for many years now. We are delighted to work with NTU in the formation of the institute and look forward to our faculty and students conducting research that yields a significant impact on human health.”

About the International Institute for Nanotechnology

Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) is an umbrella organization that catalyzes and supports interdisciplinary research focused on the development of transformative nanotechnologies, including nanomedicine. Established in 2000, the IIN is home to the first federally funded nanotechnology facility in the nation; currently represents and unites more than $600 million in nanotechnology research, education and infrastructure; and has positioned Northwestern as a world leader in the field of nanotechnology.

Some of the research projects currently in various stages of development at the IIN include a diagnostic system that detects disease-causing viruses and bacteria, as well as genetic mutations, with greater sensitivity and accuracy than ever before; a drug delivery system that allows physicians to successfully combat inflammation after open heart surgery; and skin moisturizers with gene regulators capable of penetrating deep into the skin and turning “off” disease-causing genes -- a technology that has great potential for lifesaving therapies for skin cancers. 

The IIN unites more than 190 faculty experts from 25 different disciplines and has major state-of-the-art facilities, all of which will greatly advance the collaborative research and translational medicine of this new institute.

About Nanyang Technological University

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a research-intensive university with an international outlook. It has had remarkable success translating research into innovative applications. It has a student population of 33,500, with programs taught in English. It was recently ranked 41st globally by higher education information provider Quacquarelli Symonds. NTU also is ranked No. 1 in the world by Times Higher Education in industry income and innovation. Some of the existing cutting-edge research projects at NTU include the new anti-glaucoma nanomedicine, Lipolat, which is undergoing clinical trials. Injected only twice yearly to replace the current daily eye drops, this nanomedicine reduces high eye pressure, which if left untreated can lead to blindness. Another nanomedicine project is a new drug-eluting balloon. When coated with a gel, it can deliver drugs over a long period of time to prevent reoccurrence of cardiovascular plaque that narrow the arteries. This unique gel contains millions of timed-release nano-sized capsules that have anti-restenotic drugs in them to help prevent the re-narrowing of an artery after it has been widened.