CRC/MED Nanomedicine Initiative

Latest News

The National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer has awarded the BU Nanomedicine team a five-year, $2 million grant to create a nanomedicine training center: the Boston University Cross-disciplinary Training in Nanotechnology for Cancer (XTNC).

Program History

In the fall of 2008, the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology, the Evans Center, the Department of Medicine, and the research Office of the Provost initiated a new program in nanomedicine. Our mission was to build sustainable collaborations across two campuses, partnering nanoscience and nanotechnology researchers with medical researchers and clinicians. We began with seminars during medical grand rounds, providing background information, demonstrating cutting edge applications in nanomedicine and overviews of work on both campuses. These grand rounds were held in cancer, cardiovascular and infectious disease divisions and were widely attended. We then held a one day symposium, comprised of a morning of invited presentations followed by an afternoon of posters and directed table discussions. In the fall of 2009, we distributed a request for proposals, requiring that the proposed research was a new collaborations, included a faculty from both MED and Nanotechnology on the CRC campus, as well as detailed plans of how the collaborations would work (Phase I). CNN, in collaboration with Evans, DoM, ENG and CAS, and the Provost Office funded 11 seed projects. We submitted a proposal to NIH that was funded this summer ($2M), and are now supporting 6 Phase II programs. In total, we have committed $400k internally toward this Nanomedicine Initiative.


January 2008: Label-free Sensor workshop. CNN directors brought together 6 researchers from the Charles River Campus with 11 physicians from the School of Medicine. As a result of this workshop, which was held on the MED campus on 3/21, several white papers and collaborations are being pursued.

Fall 2008: Between the Department of Medicine, the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology, and the Provost’s office, the nanomedicine initiative has strongly engaged Medical Campus faculty and administrators, together with colleagues from the Charles River Campus.

Spring 2009: CNN ran three “Introduction to nanomedicine” seminars during Grand Rounds in Cardiovascular Disorders, ID/microbiology, and Cancer and Cell Growth. The talks focused on the basic concepts in nanomedicine, examples of successful projects, elements of the speaker’s current research, and potential directions for future collaborations. Presentations were followed by a discussion led by CRC/MED leads. Several potential collaborations have begun. This was followed by a Symposium on May 13th attended by ~40 faculty and students from CRC and ~50 from MED.

Fall 2009: the nanomedicine working group called for internal proposals to seed collaborative efforts in basic science and discovery in nanomedicine, with the goal to enable researchers to test new ideas, build interdisciplinary teams, and generate the preliminary data necessary for successful applications to external funding agencies. Out of 14 proposals received, 8 were funded through the Nanomedicine RFP. 3 additional proposals were funded through other mechanisms, and a few added with BUPC support.

Winter 2009/10: Initiated the 11 Phase I research projects, each research project had a scientific advisor who would oversee, assist to solve problems and eliminate roadblocks, and provide feedback and additional scientific input and resources when requested by the team. We also submitted two programmatic proposals to NIH, one a Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center and another an ARRA RC4 Interdisciplinary research proposal in Nanomedicine.

Spring 2010: In May, we held a Nanomedicine Retreat, with 40 investigators, post docs and graduate students to review the new science, the effective and ineffective collaboration modes, generate new ideas and provide broad input. The retreat tself led to several new interactions and collaborations.

Summer 2010:  The Cancer Nanotechnology Training Grant was funded for $2M over 5 years, supporting 4 graduate students, and 50% of 3 post-docs in nanomedicine for cancer. This allowed us to fund all 6 submitted Phase II proposals, each with compelling progress and results. Currently 3 of the original projects are writing manuscripts and plan grant submission before the end of 2010, and 3 more in the spring.


In the following, we briefly motivate nanomedicine in cancer, infectious and cardiovascular disease:


Cancer nanotechnology: Cancer is a scourge on the face of humanity, responsible for over 550,000 deaths in 2008 in the US (approximately one out of every four). New diagnoses this year will top 1.4 million, with projections growing as the population ages. The promise of nanotechnology in cancer lies in the ability to engineer customizable nanoscale constructs that can be loaded with one or more payloads, such as chemotherapeutic, targeting, imaging and diagnostic agents. Nanotechnology thus holds great promise for cancer, with the potential to address many of the most difficult problems now facing cancer prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. These include the application of nanotechnology to early detection/cancer prevention, through identification of rare circulating tumor cells, or genomic biomarkers, via biochips. Proteomics in particular is emerging as a tool for detection of nuclear matrix proteins and new biomarkers for screening of early tumors stage. Nanowires and nanocantilever arrays are among the leading approaches under development for the early detection of precancerous and malignant lesions from biological fluids. Nanobiotechnologies have been applied to overcome some of the problems of drug delivery in cancer. These technologies include various types of nanoparticles, nanoencapsulation, targeted delivery to tumors of various organs, and combination with other methods of treatment of cancer, such as radiotherapy. In a recent series of workshops held by the NCI Alliance, “the audience overwhelmingly pointed out the continued need for technologists, biomedical researchers, and clinicians to work together in order to make the most out of the opportunities that nanotechnology can generate.” [[i]] In our proposal, we endeavor to directly couple faculty and students from physical and biological sciences with clinicians.


Nanotechnology in Infectious Disease: It is widely accepted that infectious diseases (ID) kill more people worldwide than any other single cause. In the United States, hospital-acquired infections alone afflict nearly 2 million patients and kill approximately 90,000 people annually. Developing the field of Nanomedicine in the context of ID could have a profound influence on the treatment of ID. Our investigators are well-poised to develop research in crucial areas, such as lab-on-a-chip technology, nanoparticle-based microbicides, nanotechnology-based vaccines, antibacterial nanoparticle coatings for surfaces and materials, and more. One of the ongoing projects (Phase I) in our program aims at pioneering novel assays that will allow monitoring of RNA-protein complexes at a single molecule level in real time. The research focuses on two pediatric infectious agents, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Neisseria meningitidis (see below). Another project develops a label-free, quantitative tool to measure the production of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines by eukaryotic cells in response to infectious microorganisms. Such projects will be grouped into an ARC to provide a larger and stronger platform for collaborative research and educational opportunities. The National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory based at the Medical Campus of Boston University will continue to be a great resource to this part of our program.


Nanotechnology in Cardiovascular Disease: Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the Western world with atherosclerosis as the major contributor. According to a recent update of the American Heart Association on Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, about 4.3 million deaths per year in Europe and about 1 million deaths per year in the United States are caused by cardiovascular disease, with atherosclerosis responsible for approximately 50% of these deaths. Our proposed Nanomedicine program will bring together experts in cardiovascular biology, clinical cardiologists, physicists and engineers to develop tools to understand mechanisms and develop therapies related to cardiovascular disease. For instance, one of our Phase I projects focuses on synthesis of a bi-functionalized asymmetric nanoparticle for endothelial target-specific molecular imaging and DNA/siRNA delivery. Another project aims at developing a new approach to understand and diagnose vessel occlusion and cell adhesion, by developing a miniaturized microfluidic lab-on-a-chip device, based on the principle of surface acoustic waves, to recreate in-vivo blood flow conditions. Such groups will be assembled into ARCs to further enhance interactions and exchange of expertise. The Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at our medical campus will continue to be a strong source of investigator-driven, clinically relevant project development in nanotechnology.

Opportunity and potential impact: The opportunity and potential impact of this program are embedded in the successful creation of a platform for the development of innovative, interdisciplinary research, and in the scientific and medical discoveries of the nanomedicine projects. We predict that successful implementation of this new process of three levels of growth, from initial idea developed by investigators in medicine and physical sciences, through demonstration of the scientific success, to a higher level focused on critical biomedical questions, will have an impact on how other research communities approach the goal of bridging disciplines.

Nanomedicine Initiative Events:

Nanomedicine Request For Proposals:

The Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN) together with the Department
of Medicine (DoM), the Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research and the
Office of the Provost, the Dean of Engineering and the Dean of Arts and Sciences call for
internal Boston University proposals to seed collaborative efforts in basic science and
discovery in nanomedicine
. With this RFP we seek to support new collaborations in
innovative applications of nanotechnology to medicine. Our goal is to enable researchers
to test new ideas, build interdisciplinary teams, and generate the preliminary data
necessary for successful applications to external funding agencies.

CNN Resources:

MED Resources:

Upcoming deadlines and important dates:

    • 11/15/09:  Stage I submission deadline (Email submission)
    • 11/30/09:  Panel reviews, awards made
    •   1/01/10:   Stage I start date

Upcoming Submission Deadlines in Nanomedicine:

Relevant courses in Nanomedicine:

Nanomedicine: Fundamentals and Applications

Past Nanomedicine Events:

Introductory Presentations

Nanomedicine Symposium

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