Two Hopkins professors, Peter Searson and Steve Desiderio, were recently appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to join the Governor’s Task Force in an effort to study the emerging advantages of nanobiotechnology.
Nanotechnology concerns materials at the atomic and molecular scale. Nanobiotechnology aims to utilize these materials and apply them in biology and medicine.
The most idealistic predictions of the applications of nanotechnology in medicine envision nanoscale robots that can be injected into the body that would repair or maintain the organisms tissues and cells. But for the near future, some of the applications include screening blood or urine samples for biological markers using nanocrystals.
The Governor’s office appointed the Governor’s Task Force in order to explore nanotechnology as it applies to a broad range of topics including job creation, medicine and medical equipment, healthcare cost, electronics, and commercial products.
According to Searson, the state of Maryland is considerably involved in Nanobiotechnology research and education, especially through the Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, and thus has the potential to become at the forefront of this field.
“The Institute for Nanobiotechnology . . . at Johns Hopkins, has a unique combination of resources to support current and future efforts required to build a robust nanobiotechnology industry in Maryland,” wrote Searson in an e-mail to The News-Letter.
In 2006, Searson helped found the Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, which he currently directs. He is a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Whiting School for Engineering, and his interests span nanoscience, biophysics and bioengineering.
Desiderio is a professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Hopkins School of Medicine. He is also director of the Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences and director of the Immunobiology Program at the Institute for Cell Engineering. Both professors are interested in nanobiotechnology research.
Other members of the Task Force include Nariman Farvadin, Peter Swaan, Esther Chang, Lisbeth Pettengill, Patrick Lu and Lawrence Tamarkin. The Task Force is chaired by Senator Jennie Forehand and Delegate Susan Lee.
“[The Task Force will study] the generation of revenue for the state and improvements to the quality of life for the state’s citizens and the state’s role in supporting Maryland’s leadership in nanobiotechnology . . . and make recommendations regarding actions that the state should take to promote the growth of the nanobiotechnology industries in the state,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
The creation of the Task Force is also a step toward determining the safety of such materials in biological applications. Some previous studies have suggested that nanomaterials can produce harmful effects within the body.
Nonetheless, nanobiotechnology offers a range of potential improvements in biology and medicine, and having two experienced Hopkins researchers on the Governor’s Task Force will help propel nanobiotechnology forward.