New $9 million NSF grant to fund creation of center at LSU

06/30/04

New Center for BioModular Microsystems to focus on micro- or nano-fabrication and development

A new $9 million research grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the establishment of the Center for BioModular Microsystems, or CBM2, at LSU.

The center represents a collaboration between researchers at LSU, LSU's Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices, the LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans, Tulane Health Science Center and Xavier University in New Orleans.

This new "Research Infrastructure Improvement Award" is a competitively awarded grant provided through the NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR. It was officially awarded to the Louisiana Board of Regents and the Louisiana EPSCoR program. With $3 million from the Louisiana Board of Regents Support Fund and $1.5 million from the participating institutions, the grant will total $13.5 million over the next three years.

The new Center for BioModular Microsystems will be located in LSU's recently acquired 45,000-square-foot lab and office complex on GSRI Road, formerly owned by Albemarle chemical company. It will bring together an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research team with expertise in microsystems engineering, materials, chemistry and biological systems and provide state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.

Steven A. Soper, the William L. and Patricia Senn Jr. Professor of Chemistry at LSU, will serve as director of the center. A large number of researchers from LSU will be involved in the project, including faculty from CAMD and the departments of biological sciences, mechanical engineering and chemistry. External partners in the project include researchers from Cornell Medical College, Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Research Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

According to Soper, the center will have three primary missions: basic research, service to the community and country through micro- or nano-fabrication and development, and educational outreach. Soper said the focus will be on building new equipment and tools for medicine, forensics and homeland security applications.

"The ultimate goal is to build a national 'center of excellence' in micro-/nano-fabrication for biology and medical purposes," said Soper.

"The launching of CBM2 further solidifies LSU as a national leader in micro- and nano- fabrication for medical applications and strengthens our national thrust in bioscience," said Kevin Smith, Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Studies.

Dr. Michael Khonsari, director of Louisiana EPSCoR, said that "the center's pioneering research and development on the design and fabrication of functional, high-performance biological tools and devices will put Louisiana on the map as a major player at the national level."

Soper said that the center will hire around 31 new employees, primarily administrative and support personnel. Undergraduates, graduate students, research associates and post-doctoral researchers will all be involved in the project and CAMD will be instrumental in providing equipment. Jost Goettert, director of microfabrication at CAMD, is one of the primary researchers involved in the new center.

"CAMD can be very helpful in making the center successful because we have developed the technology necessary to make the devices that the new center is focused on," said Josef Hormes, director of CAMD.

The center will provide laboratory space for researchers and students from the various institutions involved, as well as lab space for visiting scientists to conduct work and evaluate the technologies. In addition, there will be a major outreach component, primarily to middle schools throughout the state, which aims to "educate a diverse community of students, teachers and the public in the science and application of cutting-edge biological modular microsystems."

"This center draws upon the significant amount of investment by the state and the university in micro- and nano-fabrication," said Soper. "It brings a diverse group of people under one roof to draw major national funding and respect."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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