Disease diagnosis, drug development focus of UH prof's biochip research


B. Montgomery Pettitt one of only three Americans to present at international nanoscience conference

HOUSTON, Sept. 1, 2004 Leading the way to disease diagnosis and drug development, biochip research at the University of Houston will be presented to an international audience of top nanoscientists next week.

B. Montgomery Pettitt, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Houston, has been selected as one of the plenary speakers at the Pacific Rim Nanoscience Conference Sept. 7-11 in Broome, Western Australia. Pettitt is one of only three American scientists among the 21 invited speakers.

"The biochip industry is a new and nearly billion-dollar industry and is ready to grow 10- to 100-fold very shortly," Pettitt said. "Biochips are a reality now, but they are still crude. At the University of Houston, we have uncovered important design principles for the next generation of biochips."

The research in Pettitt's lab is directed toward understanding the fundamental principles of how hard surfaces affect softer biological components like proteins and DNA. DNA chips, a type of biochip, have DNA molecules attached to a high-tech chip surface and have applications in genetic screening, disease diagnosis and drug development.

"The design of biochips depends critically on our understanding of how biological molecules interact with high-tech materials," Pettitt said. "The conference provides an opportunity for the materials science and biotech communities of the world to come together. And the proximity to Asia means that many members of that community will attend and mix with Europeans and Americans."

During the "Nanodevices" portion of the symposium, as part of session two on "Nanobio Interfaces," Pettitt's talk "Poly-electrolytes at the liquid solid interface: Biochips" will begin at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 7, in the Sam Male North, Cable Beach Resort.

Starting during the conference week and continuing through the month, all lectures (including slides and audio) from the conference will be available through http://nanotech.colayer.net/ for those unable to physically attend the conference in Australia. This virtual version of the conference also will provide Internet participants an opportunity to post questions and discussion items.

Nanoscience is strongly multidisciplinary, and the conference will reflect this diversity with contributions from physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. The conference will provide a forum for jumpstarting international collaborations. In addition to the U.S., speakers will come from Australia, Japan, China and Europe.

The principal aims of the conference are to bring together the leading academic and industrial researchers in the experimental and theoretical nanosciences, to showcase the role of computational science underpinning and enabling innovations, and to consider specific applications of nanotechnology. Conference proceedings will be published in the international journal, Molecular Simulation.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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