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Pancreatic Cancer:

Opening the Window of Opportunity


Nanotech Goes Worldwide International Research Experience Engineering on a Mission

Contents Featured Stories

Johns Hopkins University Institute for NanoBioTechnology Suite 100, New Engineering Building 3400 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21218 Phone: (410) 516-5634 Fax: (410) 516-2355 Email:



Too Much Information?

Undergrads in the Lab


Science—Visually Speaking

Leadership Peter C. Searson Director; Joseph R. AND Lynn C. Reynolds Professor


Denis Wirtz

2 Welcome 3 Agenda 4 Speaker Biographies

Associate Director; Theophilus H. Smoot Professor

Staff Nathan Cappallo Senior Lab Coordinator

Ashanti Edwards Academic Program Administrator

Research 7 10 13

A Window of Opportunity for Pancreatic Cancer Too Much Information? Bioinformatics Makes Sense Of It All Tackling the Brain’s Barrier

Tom Fekete Director of Corporate Partnerships


Warren Fewster

14 16 19

Senior Financial Analyst

Christie Johnson

Nanotech Goes Worldwide with International Research Experience IMEC Comes to Hopkins Undergrads in the Lab

Research Service Analyst

Sue Porterfield Senior Administrative Manager

Martin Rietveld Web/Animation Director

Tracy Smith Administrative Coordinator

Mary Spiro Science Writer;

Outreach 22 25 26

Engineering on a Missions Cancer Survivors Inform Research-Clinician Teams Science—Visually Speaking

Partnerships 28 30

BD: More Than Needles and Syringes INBT Laboratory, Office Space Continues Expansion

Editor-in-Chief, Nano-Bio Magazine

On The Cover

Graphic Design Danielle Peterson

Beautiful view of an intestinal-type intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm

Brio Design

with high-grade dysplasia. Note the involvement of the branching duct system

Additional Photography Homewood Photography Johns Hopkins Pathology Photography Marty Katz

of the pancreas. Based on an image from the Atlas of Pancreas Pathology by Johns Hopkins Pathology. Illustration by Martin Rietveld Pancreatic Cancer:

Opening the Window of Opportunity


Nanotech Goes Worldwide International Research Experience Engineering on a Mission



Peter Searson

Anirban Maitra

Welcome to the sixth annual nano-bio symposium for the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology and the third issue of Nano-Bio Magazine. Today’s symposium speakers will be talking about cancer from a variety of different angles—from the molecular and genetic components to the aspects that encompass diagnosis, treatment and public health. Our keynote speaker Ralph Hruban, professor of Pathology and Oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, will set the tone for the day with his talk, “Challenges in Pathology.” Throughout the morning, you will hear from five other Johns Hopkins faculty experts who are developing new ways to understand, diagnosis and treat the spread of cancer. Please refer to the agenda and to the speaker bios on the following pages for more information about today’s talks. During the afternoon, please visit our poster session, where more than 80 research posters are on display from laboratories across all of the Johns Hopkins campuses and divisions. Our best poster presenters will receive prizes for their efforts. At the poster session, we have also included displays and some posters from our industry partners. Please check out their exhibits. We are pleased to present our third edition of Nano-Bio Magazine. The 2012 issue features an array of stories written by staff and student writers who have showcased INBT’s research, education, outreach and partnership efforts. A lot of work went into writing, photographing, illustrating and designing this issue, and we are very proud of it. Please enjoy our annual symposium program and magazine and share it with your colleagues and friends. Thanks to our corporate partners and symposium sponsors for continued support of our endeavors today and every day. Their financial contributions help make our symposium and this annual publication possible. If there is anything that we can do to make your experience at today’s symposium better, please let one of us, an INBT staff member, or a student volunteer know. Peter C. Searson Joseph R. and Lynn C. Reynolds Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Co-director, Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence Anirban Maitra Professor Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Department of Pathology Co-director, Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center


Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine



Cancer:The Big Picture | May 4, 2012, Albert H. Owens Audiotrium The annual symposium of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology

9:00 am Welcome

10:40 am

“Physical Confinement Alters Tumor Cell Adhesion and Migration Phenotypes”

Peter C. Searson

Konstantinos Konstantopoulos 9:05 am

“Challenges in Pathology” Ralph H. Hruban

11:05 am

“Cancer Epidemiology” Elizabeth Platz

9:40 am

“Micro/Nano Technologies for Better Molecular Diagnostics”

11:30 am

“Nanoparticle Engineering for Delivery of Nucleic Acid Therapeutics”

Jeff Tza Huei Wang

Hai-Quan Mao 10:05 am

“Nanoparticle-Based Drug Delivery for Cancer”

12:00-1:30 pm

Lunch Break

1:30-3:30 pm

Research Poster Session

Justin Hanes 10:30 am Break

Owens Auditorium Lobby and Corridor

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Speaker Biographies

Justin Hanes

Ralph H. Hruban

Konstantinos Konstantopoulos

Hanes is the Lewis J. Ort Family Professor and Director of the Center for Nanomedicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He holds faculty appointments in Biomedical Engineering, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Environmental Health Sciences, Neurosurgery, Oncology, and a primary appointment in Ophthalmology. He directs a research program at the interface of biomaterials, biophysics, drug delivery and translational medicine at Johns Hopkins. Hanes is also a founder and member of the board of directors of Kala Pharmaceuticals, a company commercializing his laboratory’s “mucus-penetrating-particle” nanotechnology, and he is founder, CEO and Chair of the Board of Directors of GrayBug, a private company developing advanced drug delivery systems with a special focus on the treatment of diseases that affect vision. He also serves on the scientific advisory board for Genentech in the Drug Delivery Division. Hanes is an INBT affiliated faculty member.

Hruban is a professor of Pathology and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is director of the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, director of the Division of Gastrointestinal/Liver Pathology and deputy director of Program and Research in the Pathology Department. Hruban was recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information as a Highly Cited Researcher and by Essential Science Indicators as the most highly cited pancreatic cancer scientist. He has received numerous awards including the Arthur Purdy Stout Prize for significant career achievements in surgical pathology, the Young Investigator Award from the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, the PanCAN Medical Visionary Award, the Ranice W. Crosby Distinguished Achievement Award for scholarly contributions to the advancement of art as applied to medicine, and five teaching awards from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Konstantopoulos is professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research focuses primarily on the understanding of cell-cell and cell-substrate interactions with respect to cancer metastasis. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Konstantopoulos serves as a member and chair of the Bioengineering, Technology and Surgical Sciences (BTSS) study section at National Institutes of Health. He is a member of the Unified Peer Review Steering Committee of the American Heart Association, an Associate Editor at the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, and an Editorial Board member of The American Journal of Physiology’s Cell Physiology. He was the recipient of the DuPont Young Professor Award, the NSF CAREER Award, and was a former Masson-Agarwal Faculty Scholar. He is an INBT affiliated faculty member.


Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Hai-Quan Mao

Elizabeth Platz

Jeff Tza Huei Wang

Mao is an associate professor in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, and currently holds a joint appointment in the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research is focused on engineering novel nano-structured materials for nerve regeneration and therapeutic delivery. He received the Cygnus Award for Outstanding Work in Drug Delivery from the Controlled Release Society in 1997 for his research on gene delivery and received the Capsugel Awards for Outstanding Research in Innovative Aspects of Controlled Drug Release in 1998 and 2001 for his work on DNA vaccine delivery. He was the recipient of the Young Investigator Award at National University of Singapore in 2002, and NSF CAREER Award in 2008 for his work on artificial matrix for stem cell engineering. Mao is an affiliated faculty member of INBT.

Platz is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. At the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Platz is the Martin D. Abeloff Scholar in Cancer Prevention, the head of Cancer Epidemiology Area of Concentration, director of the Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Training Program and co-director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program. She works as a cancer epidemiologist, where research on prostate and colon cancers sits at the interface between epidemiology and basic science. She studies the association of genetic and epigenetic factors as well as circulating markers of androgenicity, inflammation, and oxidation with prostate cancer incidence and progression. For colorectal neoplasia, her work focuses on the metabolic syndrome, growth factors, and inflammation as a secondary result of obesity. She also studies the role of modifiable factors that influence these pathways, such as diet and lifestyle, in relation to the incidence of these diseases.

Wang has appointments in the departments of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Oncology, Whitaker Biomedical Engineering, and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research focuses on the development of new molecular analysis technologies via advances in optics, microfluidics and nanotechnology for biomedical diagnostics. His lab aims to develop novel methods and instrumentation with unprecedented performance characteristics, such as sensitivity, specificity, resolution (temporal and/or spatial), and throughput to improve upon current technological limitations of molecular analyses. In addition, his interest is moving beyond basic research into translational studies by developing and applying technologies that address practical biomedical problems and clinical needs. Towards this end, Wang has developed fruitful collaborations with medical scientists and physicians in various areas including oncology and pathology. Wang is an affiliated faculty member of INBT.

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Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Illustration by Martin Rietveld

Opposite page: Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) - with high-grade dysplasia (carcinoma in situ). Based on an image from the Atlas of Pancreas Pathology by Johns Hopkins Pathology.

A Window of Opportunity for Pancreatic Cancer By Shiv Gaglani

Ask any oncologist, and they will tell you that pancreatic cancer is one of the most feared and intractable malignancies they encounter. Only one in four patients survive past the first year, and within five years that rate drops to five percent, making pancreatic cancer the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women. A primary reason for this is that by the time the tumor is discovered, it has become malignant and requires complex surgical removal that, until recently, had a mortality rate of more than 20 percent. Johns Hopkins is wellknown for reducing the operative mortality rate ten-fold and now performs more pancreatic cancer surgeries than any other institution in the world, averaging almost one each day. Despite this Hopkins contribution, surgery will rarely work if the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other regions of the body (an unfortunate though all-too-common consequence of the pancreas’ job of directly secreting hormones both into the blood and gut). However, thanks to exciting new developments in early diagnosis and treatment by researchers at Johns

Hopkins’ Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, the story does not end here. Window of Opportunity “Most patients who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer aren’t diagnosed until late in the course of their disease, after their cancer has metastasized,” said Ralph Hruban, director of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center. “Yet we know that pancreatic cancer arises from curable precursor lesions, and recent research from Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue’s lab at Hopkins suggests that there is a very large window of opportunity for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.” In a landmark study published in Nature, Iacobuzio-Donahue and her colleagues at Hopkins – including Hruban and cancer genetics pioneer Bert Vogelstein – used a “molecular clock” technique to discover how long it takes pancreatic cancer to develop, starting from the first mutation and ending in metastasis and death. They found that, on average, it took

Spring 2012



11.7 years for the first cancer-related mutation in a pancreatic cell to develop into a mature primary tumor, an additional 6.8 years before the primary tumor spread to another organ, and then 2.7 years before the patient died, for a total of 21.2 years, or two whole decades of opportunity to detect and cure the pancreatic cancer! Early Detection As Hruban noted, currently “the challenge is detecting precancerous lesions and early curable cancers before the patients develop symptoms.” Because these precancerous lesions do not cause symptoms until the very end, early detection often occurs by chance. Alarmingly, between 2 to 13 percent of patients who undergo an abdominal imaging study for an unrelated reason present with cystic lesions on their pancreas (that detection rate may even increase as abdominal imaging becomes more common and accessible). At this point, detection presents a lifelong management problem because it is unclear which lesions are cause for concern and which will remain benign. Surgically removing harmless lesions places the patient at unnecessary risk and may lead to complications, but the converse – not removing malignant and invasive lesions – often leads to worse outcomes. Due to concomitant advances in personalized medicine and nanotechnology by Hruban and colleagues at Hopkins, there is renewed hope for the two percent of Americans, or over six million, who may have lurking cysts in their pancreases. Personalization and Miniaturization Hopkins has long led the way in sequencing the genomes of tumors in order to better understand their origins and identify treatment targets. Researchers at Sol Goldman including

Hruban, Iacobuzio-Donahue, Vogelstein, Anirban Maitra, and many others have discovered that pancreatic cancers have on average 60 or more genetic mutations, some of which can be used to differentiate between benign and malignant types, thus informing and personalizing treatment decisions. Consider this striking example of a patient who recently came to Hopkins for treatment. Despite surgery and therapy with a standard drug (gemcitabine), his aggressive cancer spread to his lymph nodes and lungs, meaning he would only have a few months left. His doctors sequenced the cancer and surprisingly found mutations in both copies of a gene that made the cancer very susceptible to a certain class of drugs that cause breaks in double stranded DNA. “He was administered this particular therapeutic strategy, which would otherwise not be offered to him, and survived for several years following the initial diagnosis of metastases,” said Maitra. “This is a remarkable example of the power of genomics in personalizing therapy for cancer patients, and represents a promising strategy for how we can improve the prognosis of lethal cancers like pancreatic cancer in the future.” Nanobiotechnology is also a very promising avenue that Hopkins researchers are exploring for both the detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Maitra himself pioneered nanocurcumin, which embeds the natural anti-cancer compound in soluble polymer spheres that are so small that one thousand of them could fit in the width of a human hair. He said that he and his colleagues are awaiting the results of trials with these and nanotechnology-enabled drugs and imaging techniques “with great anticipation.” Hruban echoed these remarks: “I sincerely believe that nanotechnology will play a key role in making early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer a reality.” n

Shiv Gaglani is a medical student at Johns Hopkins who also writes for the popular medical technology blog,


Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine


Too Much Information?

Bioinformatics Makes Sense Of It All By Jacob Koskimaki

When Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch scientist and tradesman, first created a lens for much greater magnification in the microscope, it allowed him to see things no person had ever seen before – tiny microbes, bacteria, and yeast. This important technological innovation allowed for the collection of enormous amounts of new data and the development of a completely new area of science called microbiology. Likewise, as biology continues to advance through the use of so-called “high throughput” technologies, scientists will amass large quantities of data and develop completely new trends, accrued from the sequencing of whole genomes. Analysis of this

10 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

data requires the expertise of statisticians like Rafael Irizarry, professor of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Irizarry analyzes large-scale data sets to look for new trends that may be drivers of cancer. “It’s only recently the nature of biology has changed and become a data-driven science by high throughput technologies,” Irizarry said. As the name suggests, “high throughput” technologies, such as microarray and next generation sequencing, allow researchers to run thousands of mini experiments simultaneously and provide tremendous insight into whole genomes like the cancer genomes. This data must be classified and

analyzed in some kind of meaningful way through advanced statistical analysis. To assist researchers with large-scale datasets in cancer research Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) established the Bioinformatics Core. Jeff Leek, assistant professor of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, directs the core and works with researchers of different backgrounds such as biomedical engineers, cancer biologists, and physicians. “The Bioinformatics Core is designed to assist new technologies such as high throughput phenotyping data, image analysis, microarray applications and genomic data sets. It also assists researchers with study design, sampling and data analysis,” Leek said. As nanotechnology has improved and datasets have increased in scope, core facilities such as these help researchers draw meaningful conclusions from complex sets of data and design effective experiments appropriate for emerging nanotechnologies. For example, epigenetics, or how DNA is chemically modified in ways outside of the gene sequence, is an emerging field that has benefited tremendously from biostatistics. Epigenetic changes are thought to play a strong role in how normal cells become cancerous. To a non-statistician’s eye these changes largely went unnoticed as they were buried in mounds of large-

scale genomic data. However, through biostatistical analysis, changes in DNA methylation are now known to play a key role in how cancer cells develop and become invasive. “Our role as statisticians and bioinformaticists is to analyze data; to understand statistical noise and what contributes to biological variability,” Irizarry said. Much of his work has centered on improving methods to identify significant biological trends in large-scale genomic data sets, by filtering statistical noise and inherent biological variability. Working with colleague Andrew Feinberg of the School of Medicine, Irizarry reported in the journal, Nature Genetics, that epigenetic variation significantly increased among all cancer types, distinguishing it from normal, healthy tissue. Epigenetic variations, which affect how cancer genes might be expressed, could be the underlying source of tumor cell variance, and why cancer subtypes are difficult to diagnose and treat. This is thought to contribute to the high adaptability of cancer cells. Furthermore, Irizarry’s work has also lead to the discovery of “CpG island shores,” which are stretches of DNA adjacent to sequences expressing high levels of C- and G-bases. Irizarry developed an approach to identify such regions, by using a unique microarray and a statistical approach to remove variability and noise. His method and findings have proven to be significant, as these highly variable epigenetic regions are identified as a key factor for causing colon cancer. “Collaboration among statisticians and molecular biologists has proven essential for creating the tools to identify such findings,” Irizarry said. In addition to cancer, Irizarry is interested in studying how epigenetic changes may regulate phenotypic outcome in development and tissue differentiation. He also studies new high throughput technologies, such as next generation sequencing, and their applicability in generating datasets specific to cancer and diseases regulated by epigenetics. As microscopy forever changed the field of biology and required new tools and technologies to analyze unknown data, so too has the collection of vast amounts of information forced biology to become a data-driven science, requiring collaborations between nanotechnologists, cancer biologists and statisticians. The collaboration and creation of networks formed through the CCNE’s Bioinformatics Core will play an important role in speeding the development of new discoveries drawn from complex datasets. n

Jacob Koskimaki, Ph.D., is a 2012 graduate of the Biomedical Engineering program at Johns Hopkins and INBT science writing intern.

Spring 2012 11


Tackling the Brain’s Barrier By Mary Spiro

Much like a sentry at a border crossing, the network of tiny blood vessels surrounding the brain allows only a few important molecules in or out. Of course, there is good reason for this. The brain controls the senses, motor skills, breathing, and heart rate, as well as being the seat of thoughts and emotional experiences. Just as our tough plated skull offers a physical armor for the brain, the blood-brain barrier shields our brain from potentially harmful substances at the molecular level. “Despite its powerful role in controlling bodily functions, the brain is extremely sensitive to chemical changes in the environment,” said Peter Searson, director of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) and lead on the Blood Brain Barrier Working Group (BBBWG). The BBBWG is a collaboration between INBT and the Brain Science Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Oxygen, sugars (such as glucose), and amino acids used to build proteins can enter the brain from the bloodstream with no trouble, while waste products, such as carbon dioxide, exit the brain just as easily. But for most everything else, there’s just no getting past this specialized hurdle. In fact, the blood-brain barrier protects the brain so effectively that it also prevents helpful drugs and therapeutic agents from reaching diseased areas of the brain. And because scientists know very little about the blood-brain barrier, discovering ways to overcome the blockade has been a challenge. “We still don’t know very much about the structure and function of the blood-brain barrier,” Searson said. “Because we don’t know how the blood-brain barrier works, it presents a critical roadblock in developing treatment for diseases of the central nervous system, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, Huntington’s disease, meningitis, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), neuroAIDS, Parkinson’s, and stroke. Treatable brain disorders are limited to depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain, and epilepsy. If we had a better understanding of how the blood-brain barrier

worked, we would be in a better position to develop treatments for many diseases of the brain,” Searson said. But he added, even with a better understanding of the membrane, humans cannot be used to study new therapies. One way the BBBWG plans to surmount this roadblock is by creating an artificially engineered (or simulated) model of the blood-brain barrier. An engineered artificial blood-brain barrier would allow researchers to conduct studies that simulate trauma to or diseases of the blood-brain barrier, such as stroke, infection, or cancer. “It would also give us insight into understanding the role of the blood-brain barrier in aging,” said Searson. Drug discovery and the development of new therapies for central nervous system diseases would be easier with an artificial blood-brain barrier and certainly safer than animal or human testing. An an artificial blood-brain barrier could be used as a platform to screen out drugs used to treat maladies outside the brain, but which have unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness. The creation of such a platform will require the skills of a multidisciplinary team that includes engineers, physicists, neuroscientists and clinicians working together to bring new ideas and new perspectives, Searson added, and will build on recent advances in stem cell engineering and the development of new biomaterials. Current members of the BBBWG include, for example, representatives from the departments of neuroscience, anesthesiology, psychiatry, pathology and pharmacology from the JohnsHopkins School of Medicine and from the departments of mechanical engineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering and materials science from the Whiting School of Engineering. One member of that multidisciplinary team is Lew Romer, MD, associate professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Cell Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Pediatrics at the Center for Cell Dynamics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. See Brain on page 32

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IMEC summer intern Daniel Peng visited the Louvre Museum in Paris.

14 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Photography by Joanna Tsao

Nanotech Goes Worldwide with International Research Experience By Rezina Siddique

“Science is worldwide. You need to do it worldwide,” said Tom Fekete, director of corporate partnerships for Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT). That is the philosophy behind a partnership between INBT and the Interuniversity MicroElectronics Centre (IMEC) in Belgium. It exemplifies the collaborative nature of scientific research and the increasing trends towards globalization. The partnership between IMEC and INBT started in 2007 with the common goal of performing research at the interface of nanoscience and medicine. The rationale was simple. “We bring a complementary set of interests and skills. We have basic science and engineering capability, and they have fabrication capability, ” Fekete said. INBT found funding to support the joint-effort through the National Science Foundation’s program called International Research Experience for Students (IRES). INBT has sent students to IMEC each summer for the last three years, beginning with one student in the summer of 2009, then three to four students each summer thereafter. IMEC’s research center, headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, was founded in 1984 as a non-profit organization aimed at serving as a hub for an innovative, multinational microelectronics industry. It has grown to become a world leader in microelectronics, employing over 1,600 researchers and engineers, and sustaining strong partnerships with many leading semiconductor manufacturers, such as Intel and Samsung.

Students selected to participate in the IMEC-INBT research experience are generally involved with research that is of interest for IMEC and could produce an interesting collaboration. Although students can apply for the program on their own, talking to their research advisor to determine areas of overlapping interest and consulting with Fekete to determine feasibility is recommended. Students spend 10 to 12 weeks in research. Students receive travel reimbursement from INBT, housing from IMEC and a stipend from NSF. Conversely, students from IMEC also come to work in Johns Hopkins’ labs. (See related story on IMEC’s student working in the biomedical engineering laboratory of Andre Levchenko.) IMEC provides a unique environment for students to learn research, Fekete said. The center launched with funding from the Belgian government, private industries, and the Catholic University of Leuven. This mixed support produced an environment with a wide range of influences. The research campus itself is sprawling, with nearly 260,000 square feet of office space, laboratories, and other facilities and includes two clean rooms operating at industry level. There is also a joint PhD program where course work is done at the Catholic University of Leuven, and thesis work is done at IMEC. An industrial collaboration can be supplementary in nature, with common skills serving to push a project farther, such as a team of radiologists working together. Or it can be complementary, See International on page 16

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IMEC Comes to Hopkins By Mary Spiro

Arnab Kundu, a PhD student in biomedical engineering from the laboratory of professor Andre Levchenko worked in the IMEC labs for six weeks between August and September 2011. Kundu, who is studying how neurons respond to various growth cues, traveled to Belgium with the goal of “establishing a platform to combine mechanical and chemical stimuli simultaneously into one microfluidic device,” he said. “Cells always experience these cues together,” Kundu said, and such a device would more accurately simulate physiological conditions. Such a lab-on-a-chip platform could be used to study any type of cell, under a variety of conditions—mechanical, From left, Liesbeth Micholt, Andre Levchenko, and Arnab Kundu.

physical, or otherwise— that the researchers might specify.

International from page 15 where everyone brings something different to the table, which is very much the case here, Fekete explained. IMEC has impressive facilities and chip technology, but they were looking to apply their technology to new areas, particularly health and medicine. Initially, faculty from both institutes met to explore collaboration opportunities and interest levels. The complementary set of basic science and engineering skills from Hopkins and applied science skills from IMEC could be used to create unique joint projects. Research experiences at IMEC are as individualized as the students who complete them. Jorge Bernate, predoctoral fellow in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering working in the German Drazer lab, spent the summer of 2011 at IMEC. The Drazer lab had an interest in the separation of cells in microfluidic devices, particularly in the detection of circulating tumor cells, and IMEC has a very active program with that same aim. After discussions with IMEC’s Liesbet Lagae and her research group, a joint research effort was arranged. “While at IMEC, I started working on a device that we developed at Hopkins to continuously sort particles based on their ‘effective’ weight, which could be used to isolate magnetically labeled circulating tumor cells,” Bernate said. “During the

process, we discovered a fluidic platform for the passive and continuous fractionation of blood.” Their collaboration led to filing a joint patent on which Bernate is the first inventor. Daniel Peng, currently a junior in Biomedical Engineering at Hopkins working in the laboratory of Jordan Green, also went to the IMEC program for 12 weeks in the summer of 2011. Peng had been working in Green’s lab on biomaterials, specifically polymers for gene delivery and other applications. IMEC was interested in exploring gold and magnetic nanoparticles for use in the hyperthermic treatment of cancer, particularly in combining polymers with nanoparticles. Peng’s IMEC project involved creating a polymeric gel to hold nanoparticles to enable the gel to heat up as a whole. As the material was heated to transition from a rubbery polymer to a glass, Peng said, pores open up that could release a molecule. In this way, the combined polymer-nanoparticle gel could be used for both hyperthermia therapy and delivery of chemotherapeutic agents. Peng considers the experience valuable for many reasons, including the interesting industrial environment, the international setting, the opportunity to meet graduate students from all over Europe, and the experience in giving academic presentations. The project was the largest project that he had taken on

16 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Photography by Mary Spiro

While at IMEC, Kundu collaborated with Liesbeth Micholt,

“IMEC has a lot of expertise in fabrication; their state-of-the-

a physics PhD student from the University of Leuven who

art standard is higher than that of most universities,” Kundu

had been working at IMEC. From January to March 2012,

said. But working with an interdisciplinary group in an academic

INBT sponsored Micholt to come to Hopkins to work in the

setting, Micholt said, “gives you the opportunity to look at prob-

Levchenko lab. “We had been conducting studies on the effects

lems with different eyes and come up with new ways to solve a

of mechanical stimuli on neural cells at IMEC,” Micholt said.


“Since IMEC is so focused on electronics, we also wanted to

Levchenko added that it is also important for students to see

see if we could stimulate the cells and measure the response

how differently research is conducted in an American versus a

with electrical signals. Coming to work in the Levchenko lab has

European research culture.

helped me learn how to analyze the cells in terms of biological systems.” The team found that mechanical and chemical cues may work

“International collaboration makes you more aware of what the process is in other countries. In Europe, the approach to questions and the experience they bring to the table is very

together to reinforce certain cell phenotypes. Likewise, Kundu

different from America. But together, we can create something

said the collaboration between industry and academia also can

bigger than what we would be able to do otherwise," he said.n

have an additive effect on results.

as an undergraduate and showed him what it would be like to work as a graduate student. “I would definitely encourage other students to apply for the IMEC program. I’m really glad I went,” Peng said. He added that international research “demonstrates your scientific matu-

rity.” He plans to continue research in graduate school and that his experience at IMEC was “a big part of that decision.” For more information about INBT’s International Research Experience for Students go to undergraduate/ires/ n

Rezina Siddique is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering department at JHU, with an M.S. in Nanoscale Science and Engineering and a love of science writing.

Photography Courtesy of IMEC

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Jorge Marchand and Hasini Jayatilaka say undergraduate research work has enhanced their Johns Hopkins’ education.

Undergrads in the Lab By Mary Spiro

Typical science and engineering students spend hours in lecture halls and classrooms. They also work in classroom laboratories. By their junior or senior years, some have landed internships or summer jobs related to what they hope to pursue as a career after graduation. Johns Hopkins University, founded as a research institution, emphasizes research for all students. Each year, the competitive Provost Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) offers winning students a $2,500 stipend for campus research. Each semester

Photography by Martin Rietveld

the Hopkins Undergraduate Research Journal publishes articles written by students. Still, the onus of finding available positions falls to students, and fewer than 30 percent of Hopkins undergrads participate in research before they gradutate. Leaders at Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) think early involvement in research is an integral part of undergraduate education and critical for future success. “Current undergraduate education sets classroom instruction apart from research training. However, research can be a powerful

Spring 2012 19

“Always seek opportunity and network with professionals and peers who hold interests similar to yours.” ~ Quinton Smith

20 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

tool to complement classroom instruction and enhance the undergraduate educational experience,” said Peter Searson, INBT director and the Joseph R. and Lynn C. Reynolds Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Jorge Marchand, a junior in chemical and biomolecular engineering, works in the laboratory of Denis Wirtz, the Smoot Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and associate director of INBT. “In high school, I was very interested in science and would routinely read scientific journals. I wanted to try it out, as I saw it as one of my possible career paths,” Marchand said. Other students didn’t know what it meant to do research. “I became very interested in research when Dr. Wirtz presented his work in one of my classes. I wasn’t sure what exactly research meant since I had never done research before or heard much about it. The presentation gave me an insight to what I would be doing and how my work would contribute on a larger scale,” said Hasini Jayatilaka, a junior in chemical and biomolecular engineering. The urge to apply classroom skills clearly drives some students to seek research opportunities. “I found myself wanting to delve deeper into my academic field, and apply what I learned in a classroom setting to real world problems,” said Quinton Smith, a recent graduate in chemical engineering from the University of New Mexico. Smith spent two summers at Johns Hopkins conducting research through INBT’s nanobio Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), a program funded by the National Science Foundation. He recently accepted a PhD fellowship in the lab of Sharon Gerecht, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “I discovered that the REU was a unique way to meet new people, travel, and learn valuable skills that can aid in academic and professional development,” Smith added. Working in a lab as an undergraduate presents challenges. In the Wirtz lab, Marchand develops ways to rapidly analyze the movement of breast epithelial cells. His goal is to “characterizing the motile properties of metastatic cells in such a way that it can be used as a basis for diagnostics,” he said. “Not everything turns out how you would expect it,” March and explained. “I recall that during my first semester I was approached by Dr. Wirtz to build a cell incubator. I had little engineering experience and had only taken two chemical engineering classes but still thought I could handle it. About two months later I managed to convince myself that I did not

Photography by by Sarah Gubara

have the intellectual or technical capacity “Do research on something you are interested in. to do it, and so I gave up. Similarly there The best research is done by people who are invested have been failed experiments.” Wirtz said it’s perfectly fine when both emotionally and intellectually into what they something does not go as planned for the are investigating.” ~ Jorge Marchand undergraduates in his lab. “They don’t have the same pressure to publish like the graduate students and postdocs do,” Wirtz said. “In that sense, well-rounded people. I have formed great relationships with the undergraduate researchers can be much more experimental my supervising graduate student, other undergraduate research and take more risks. Several of my best projects began as underassistants, and my principal investigator. Being at lab has also graduate research interests. Later, when I list the undergrads allowed me to develop my analytical skills. This has helped me among the authors on a paper, they are always surprised.” academically,” she said. Jayatilaka, also in the Wirtz lab, is trying to understand Smith, Jayatilaka and Marchand all plan to continue research which proteins are critical for cancer cell metastasis as they after graduation. Jayatilaka, who is a teaching assistant for the move through 3D environments. Her work on actin bundling course Chemical and Biological Processes, would like to continue and crosslinking proteins qualified her for a PURA grant during to teach. “I would love to have a career that challenges me the summer of 2011. on a daily basis and allows me to have an impact on at least one “A huge challenge of working in lab has been balancing person either by contributing to science through research research with academics, extracurricular activities and a social or by inspiring people through education.” life,” noted Jayatilaka. “Working with live cells is challenging. Marchand plans to start with a master’s degree program before Your schedule revolves around them. Sometimes if the cells he decides whether to pursue a doctorate. “I’d be interested aren’t ready or if they get contaminated, the entire experiment in working in industry for a while and hopefully returning gets pushed back by days or weeks.” to academia when I’m older and more experienced. I’m interested Despite these setbacks, the students persevere because they in chemical engineering fields such as pharmaceuticals and believe they cannot put a price on the skills they learn doing alternative energy.” actual research, as opposed to classroom laboratory exercises. Smith’s career plans are fairly honed, perhaps because of his “I have learned about biology, culturing techniques, analysis REU research experiences. “I would like to use my graduate of data and how to perform research,” Marchand explained. work as a foundation for developing accessibly cheap treatment “Furthermore, I have also learned how to apply what I learn and diagnostic tools in a research focused national laboratory in the classroom to real world problems, in this case cancer setting. Some applications that I foresee include using microfluresearch. I’ve also learned quite a bit about communication idics for biomarker development, bioanalytical separation and in the workplace, how research is managed, and what it takes bioanalyate detection, all in the aim of strengthening the efforts to do good science.” in biosecurity.” Getting published shows students their work is valued. Most Johns Hopkins faculty members affiliated with INBT “I’ve been recognized through publications resulting from offer undergraduate research opportunities in their laboratories. my work, which has added academic credentials vital to success Searching through the INBT “faculty finder” can help in a competitive job market,” Smith said. “My undergraduate narrow down investigators working in areas of interest. research has been particularly useful in my pursuit of a graduate In addition, INBT hosts several different internship programs degree, in that my experiences have given me a unique skill including the International Research Experience for Students set and unbiased perspective that I can use to address my own (IRES) in Belgium (see story on page 14) and the summer research questions.” nanobio REU. n Jayatilaka agreed. “There have been so many rewards from working in lab. I have met so many incredibly smart and

Spring 2012 21


Tanzanian woman amuses neighborhood children as she grinds corn into flour using a Hopkins’ designed bicycle mill. Jeannine Coburn, seated far right, checks the results.

22 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Photography Courtesy of Jeannine Coburn

Engineering on a Mission By Mary Spiro People living in developing countries often have challenging problems that engineers and scientists can solve. But it takes people, time, and money to make these solutions a reality. In June 2011, Jeannine Coburn, a PhD student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, and two biomedical engineering graduate students, travelled to Tanzania in Africa as part of a pilot for the Global Engineering Innovation projects program. Coburn is a student in the laboratory of Jennifer Elisseeff, professor in the School of Medicine’s ophthalmology department and an INBT affiliated faculty member. Although working in a remote African village had nothing to do with her own graduate research where she is developing tissue engineering methods to repair or replace cartilage damaged by arthritis, Coburn said she’s always wanted to participate in an engineering outreach program. “I have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity (which builds homes with low-income families) and I feel it is important to give back and share your skills.” Coburn learned about the opportunity to travel to Tanzania through ophthalmology professor Sheila West of the Dana Center of Preventive Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. West has joint appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health and, through the Center for Global Health, leads the Partnership for the Rapid Elimination of Trachoma. Trachoma is an eye disease caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. “Dr. West noticed that the women in the villages where she was working expend a lot of physical effort to grind the corn into flour using a multiple step process, first cracking the corn with a large mortar and pestle to separate the shell from the meat of the corn followed by grinding with stones to make their traditional dish called ugali,” Coburn explained. West thought it might be more efficient if the corn could be ground with less effort, perhaps through bicycle-powered means. Coburn, along her colleagues Iwen Wu and Kristen Kozielski, spent several weeks at Hopkins perfecting a prototype for a human powered flourmill. The three women then travelled to

Tanzania, piggy-backing their trip on one of West’s trips to the trachoma clinic. During the team’s two-week stay, they were able to recreate the device using local materials and train a few people on how to make it. “We found that we could obtain everything we needed to build the bicycle-powered mill,” Coburn said. They did encounter a few challenges. For example, the pine used in the prototype was much softer than the extremely hard wood from the eucalyptus trees in the region. “It also took us some time to modify the corona-style mill we used to acquire corn flour instead of corn meal,” she said, “but the team was able to accomplish their goal of building a workable model.” Now, Coburn said, the program will accept more students to tackle more problems. Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology has obtained university funding to support three engineering mission teams composed of two to four students at a variety of international host sites. Teams will have two mentors: one from the Johns Hopkins faculty and one from the host site. Together, they will develop budgets, time lines and project plans to address a problem identified at a host location. Once teams, mentors and challenges are defined, the team or team leader will travel to the site to further evaluate the challenge and design constraints. Returning to Baltimore, the teams will meet to further research the challenge and brainstorm potential solutions. The Global Engineering Innovation projects program gives Johns Hopkins’ graduate students and select undergraduates an opportunity to investigate and tackle engineering challenges in the developing world. The JHU School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will be consulted so that students will be aware of the social and political atmosphere that may impact utilization and potential distribution of the engineering solutions. Coburn, who had not been overseas previously, found the experience enlightening and encourages those curious about her adventure or the application process to contact her. She can be reached at n

Spring 2012 23


Cancer Survivors Inform Research-Clinician Teams By Mary Spiro

In the fight against breast cancer, scientists and clinicians and now even engineers have joined forces to develop leading-edge ways to diagnose and treat the deadly disease. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to include actual cancer patients in this conversation? “Breast cancer patients can provide valuable insight into the impact of therapies,” said Abigail Hielscher, a chemical and biomolecular engineering postdoctoral fellow in the Sharon Gerecht laboratory. Hielscher is helping to organize an effort at Johns Hopkins to locate breast cancer survivors and patients, as well as those who work closely with them such as oncology nurses, to inform the efforts of researchers developing cancer diagnosis and treatments. “Survivors can facilitate communication between those directly affected by the disease and those working to treat or cure it,” Hielscher said. “The advocates, both patients and nurses, allow researchers to better understand and implement the needs of breast cancer patients in terms of new therapies and treatment strategies.” The advocates, who will volunteer their time, will be administered by Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC), a research entity launched in 2009 through funding from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The PS-OC is a center of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. In addition to acting as a liaison between the population of breast cancer survivors and patients and the community of Johns Hopkins PS-OC scientists performing breast cancer-related research, advocates also are charged with telling the public and funding agencies about the latest breast cancer research being performed in PS-OC labs. Likewise, researchers must communicate their findings via laboratory demonstrations and brief, non-technical talks to the breast cancer advocates.

Ideally, Hielscher said, advocates and researchers would meet monthly for one-hour discussions. During these sessions, the researchers will have the opportunity to demonstrate their research, and answer questions. Hielscher is exicted about this collaboration and said she sees benefits in the patient advocate program to both parties. Working together, the physicans, researchers and patients will be able to ask each other questions and come up with better solutions to the problem of breast cancer. “The advocate acts as a representative for the community of breast cancer survivors and patients and is in a position to speak on their behalf of breast cancer survivors and patients and learn first-hand what the scientific community at the JHU PS-OC is doing in breast cancer research,” she said. “The researcher, on the other hand, will be making his or her research visible directly to the public of breast cancer survivors and patients. The importance of their research will be evident as it is in turn communicated to the public and to funding agencies via the advocates, allowing opportunities for researchers to gain additional funding or their projects. The researcher will also gain a better appreciation for what breast cancer patients and survivors are hoping to see in terms of improved diagnosis methods and treatments,” she added. If you or someone you know is a breast cancer survivor who would like to learn about the volunteer opportunity as a patient advocate contact Abigail Hielscher at or via phone: 402-889-0283. To read more about a breast cancer patient advocate who is also a clinician, Dr. Jane Perlmutter, go to http://www.cancer. gov/ncicancerbulletin/100411/page5 n

Spring 2012 25


Science—Visually Speaking By Molly Szpara

I feel no shame admitting that most of my vocabulary skills were learned from watching the television show, Star Trek Voyager, beginning at age five. My mother would allow me to stay up with her on weeknights while she nursed my little sister. I would watch, fascinated, as the characters typed on glowing control panels, charged up the warp-core, and found their ship flung through a temporal anomaly and become quite lost in the time-space continuum. Words like temporal anomaly and time-space continuum made just about as much sense to me as my science and math classes did. I know myself to be a predominantly right-brained person, and I struggled in mandatory classes throughout middle and high school, most especially chemistry, physics, and trigonometry. Every time I thought I had learned something, I froze up on tests and couldn’t recall how to do it. I spent hours

26 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

looking at note cards and never missed a class, but with no results. My left-brain just hadn’t been exercised early enough. So I basically abandoned trying, and settled for picturing scientists as those who, like the crew of Voyager, played with shiny gadgets and made frothy potions in beakers all day. Science can be made incomprehensible merely by the way it is taught, especially for me. In lectures, the professor may explain something in a way he understands, but to me, the literature student in an intro-level science course, it’s another language entirely. An effective visual can make all the difference, however. That’s why Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s initiative to create accessible and comprehensible science videos is genius to me. Peter Searson, director of INBT, explained that the institute is a research-based operation that combines different areas of science, such as engineering, nanotechnology,

imagery by INBT Animation Studio animators

From left to right: Transmembrane protein (far left), collagen fibers (center), and gold nanoparticles with collagen memtic peptides (above).

medicine and the basic sciences, to understand concepts and solve problems cross-disciplinary fields. With this fused research in nanoscience and medicine, more headway can be made in both those areas. The combined effort is toward creating new nanotechnologies that directly impact, for example, the way surgery is performed, or how medical tests can be performed in a minimally intrusive way. You don’t even have to understand how small a nanometer is to know that is a desirable goal. To explain their work, INBT has staff devoted to communicating science simply in both visual and written ways. Martin Rietveld, the director of web and animation at INBT, has a background in animation. He works with students to flesh out the scientific concepts behind the institute’s educational videos. INBT’s science writer, Mary Spiro, teaches graduate students affiliated with INBT to write about their research in ways nontechnical people can understand. She also assists them in producing video news releases about their research endeavors. The videos can be found on INBT’s YouTube Channel and on the institute’s website. The most important steps of the video making process, Rietveld said, is the journey from conception to execution to communication through animations and video footage. The structure of the videos must be interesting, quick, and rich with information in order to captivate students or whoever might come across the movies. INBT’s animated films are able to communicate complex subjects in ways that most people can understand, but they are

still explaining science concepts that I would have considered above my head. For example, a video currently featured on the INBT website describes the structure of collagen. Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body and the main component of skin. By animating all of the structures explained by Michael Yu, an associate professor of materials science and engineering who appears in the video, the visuals go beyond what a professor in a lecture hall could deliver. Without the visuals, Yu’s description might be confusing, even for a student who was familiar with the topic. But, even for someone unfamiliar with the science, the collagen video overcomes that. INBT’s collagen video, by the way, earned an honorable mention in a multimedia contest held in September 2011 by the science research magazine, The Scientist. Every step of the video making process is a team effort, Rietveld explained. Most videos are no longer than two and a half minutes and contain just enough information for the viewer to absorb at one time. At its core, Searson explained, the INBT is a multidisciplinary operation. It exists above the engineering and medical divisions and acts to bridge the gap between the two. Because of this, research is performed that benefits both fields of study while taking a different, more holistic view of a problem. Basically: two heads are better than one, especially when both those heads are really good at what they individually do. See Science on page 32

Spring 2012 27


Researchers at BD Technologies use nanotechnology to improve healthcare, specifically in the areas of in vitro diagnostics, disease management and life science research.

28 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Photography Courtesy of BD


More Than Needles and Syringes By Mary Spiro

Becton, Dickinson and Company, or simply BD, has gained a reputation in its 115 year history for the mass production of some of the most commonly used medical items. Beginning with the glass thermometer, BD is well known for syringes, needles and IV catheters, what company associates often call “sharp, pointy things.” “Everyone knows about our syringes, needle sets and small disposables,” said Scott Bruder, MD, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Technology Officer for the company. “Today BD is recognized as an innovative and integrated global organization, seeking to establish systems to improve clinical therapy and reduce the cost of health care. We are becoming the partner of choice for other companies or academic institutions who want to improve aspects of global health care and life science research.” BD has become an $8 billion a year multinational entity with research and development centers in 17 locations and a commercial presence in 50 countries. “Sharp pointy things are important, but are just a fraction of our overall revenue. The rest is in clinical and in vitro diagnostics, instrumentation, reagents, and tools for drug discovery and delivery,” Bruder added. Andrea Liebmann-Vinson, PhD, Research and Development Director at BD Technologies, emphasized the company’s research prowess. “We have a dedicated research facility, BD Technologies, located in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. We are involved in very cutting edge, innovative work, and we are open to collaboration at many levels.” Bruder (SB) and Liebmann-Vinson (ALV) answered a few questions for Nano-Bio Magazine. Which nanotechnology applications specifically interest BD? SB: The scope of the interest is in health care, clinical diagnostics, disease management and life science research, which could include miniaturization of electronics that are applicable in all those settings. In addition, the development of some of our instrumentation depends on nanophotonics and laser light. ALV: I am using nanotechnology as a tool to improve in vitro diagnostics. I also think there are opportunities in our bioscience division for nanotechnology to enhance cell and tissue technologies. See BD on page 32

Spring 2012 29


INBT Laboratory, Office Space Continues Expansion By Mary Spiro

Microscope for imaging live cell cultures.

30 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

When Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology moved into its new headquarters on the first floor of the New Engineering Building (NEB) in January 2011, it was only the beginning of something grand. Initially, space was renovated to house INBT administrative headquarters and to create an expanded laboratory space for the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, led by Denis Wirtz, the Smoot Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and associate director of INBT. The PS-OC lab space includes a greatly expanded microscopy suite with instruments that have the ability to image cell movement in three dimensions. There is also a cell culturing lab and desk space for up to 30 graduate and undergraduate students. Wander through the lab at any given time, and you will find Wirtz and his students discussing their ever-growing list of laboratory projects. Soon afterward, however, renovation to the ground floor of NEB was completed, providing laboratory, student office and conference room space for Peter Searson, Reynolds Professor of materials science and engineering and INBT director. The laboratory of Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, already located on the ground floor, received a much-needed expansion and facelift, as well. The ground floor lab spaces boast an improved Class 10,000 cleanroom. Class 10,000 means that there are no more than 10,000 particles of matter per cubic meter of air. (Ordinary room air has about 1 million particles per cubic meter of air.) In the cleanroom, researchers can fabricate lab-on-a chip devices using photolithography or electron-beam lithography, or conduct experiments where dust particles, microbes, or other aerosolized materials would otherwise disrupt the results.

An oxygen-free hood with gloves can also be found on the ground floor. Volatile chemicals that react violently or deteriorate rapidly in the open air are stored and handled with thick rubber gloves under this hood. Argon is used to keep the hood oxygen-free. INBT laboratory space also took over the third floor of NEB, which is the new location of laboratory and office areas for assistant professors Sharon Gerecht and Honggang Cui from the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and of associate professor Hai-Quan Mao, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The third floor houses an extensive stem cell culturing area, handicapped accessible lab bench and sink space, and a walk-in cold room. The task of managing all these affiliated labs falls to Nate Cappallo, INBT’s senior laboratory coordinator. He makes sure all the equipment receives regular maintenance, that students follow safety procedures and are properly trained on new devices, and that laboratory supplies are available when needed. He also aids in the purchasing and set up of new equipment. The faculty, students and staff of INBT are thrilled to have such spacious and well-appointed laboratory and office facilities. Although INBT remains essentially a “virtual” institute with faculty and students located across every department and division of the University, moving into these three levels of NEB has transformed the institute with a physical presence on the Homewood campus. If you would like to visit INBT’ or meet with our faculty, you can make an appointment with Tracy Smith at n

Bio-safety cabinet used for culturing stem cells.

Cleanroom mask aligner for fabricating lab-on-a-chip with photolithography.

Photography by Mary Spiro

Spring 2012 31

Brain from page 13

Science from page 27

“At a cellular level, the focus here is on the adhesive interface of the neurovascular unit – the place where the microcirculation meets the complex parenchyma (or functional surface) of the brain,” Romer said. “This is a durable but delicate and highly specialized region of cell-cell interaction that is responsive to biochemical and mechanical cues.” Romer said work on the blood-brain barrier is a “fascinating and essential frontier in cell biology and translational medicine, and one that clinicians struggle to understand and work with at the bedsides of some of our sickest and most challenging patients from the ICU’s to the Oncology clinics.” Development of an “in vitro blood-brain barrier model system” that could be used in molecular biology and engineering manipulations would provide investigators with a powerful window into this vital interface,” Romer added. n

Searson said that the efforts of a research organization like INBT aim to benefit a community larger than the scientific community. They aim to benefit the world. This is made evident through the videos that INBT produces—that a deeper understanding of science is accessible to anyone, even those who may not think that more than a basic knowledge of science is necessary. You can watch several of INBT’s videos at n

BD from page 29

What skills and abilities do graduates need to possess for success at BD? SB: We want to find graduates who are technically skilled and intellectually curious, but also they should possess learning agility. They should be able to learn in a variety of situations using a variety of techniques and be able to apply their skills across disciplines. ALV: One thing that attracted me to INBT is the training you provide by exposing students to the engineering sciences as well as the biosciences so that they can speak both languages. The students who have gone through the INBT training programs have already demonstrated that ability to learn very different things and to cross disciplinary boundaries. In today’s corporate world that is very important. How does BD help recent graduates transition into employment? SB: BD’s Technology Leadership Development Program places thoughtful, intelligent and broad-thinking graduates into a business unit or research center and provides a series of rotations across the organization so that, in an accelerated fashion, they have exposure and input into a variety of our businesses. After three to five years experience, these associates have had the benefit of thoughtful rotations under the direct management of the

32 Johns Hopkins University Nano-Bio Magazine

Molly Szpara is a junior at Towson University studying English and Italian; she enjoys yoga and writing poetry.

global research management council, which is made up of vice presidents of research and development from across the corporation. The associates are put on high impact, high learning opportunity programs and projects so that they can contribute in a more meaningful way as future employees. What should nanotechnology be doing to solve the problems that BD is working on? ALV: There remain some fundamental problems that could be solved to make in vitro diagnostics more sensitive and more specific, as well as to make in vitro cell culture more “in vivo” like. Non specific interactions still remain a challenge, and that continues to be the direction that research needs to go in order to impact, for example, drug delivery. SB: The interface between materials science and biology is going to become more important as health care is managed by an increasing number of biological solutions. The theoretical and literal interface between biologicals and materials is going to become even more inextricable. BD is headquartered in Franklin Lakes, N.J. BD Diagnostics is located in Sparks, MD. Visit BD’s website at http://www. To learn more about INBT’s Corporate Partnership Program go to n

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A new dimension in cell culture








Enabling Assay

Generation Resuscitation Optimization

2012 Johns Hopkins Nano-Bio Magazine