NSF gives 'teeth' to biomaterials research

10/27/04

$600,000 grant to help grow advanced materials cluster

CLEMSON -- Clemson University has received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation program. The program creates prospects for economic growth and new jobs by supporting the research-business-government relationships that transfer advances in labs to advances in lives. Dentistry is one business that has evolved through such relationships.

"Even though most people have dental implants, veneers and crowns, they remain largely unaware of the sophistication that goes into making them and getting them to consumers," said Sarit Bhaduri, the George Bishop III Chair holder and professor of material science at Clemson. Bhaduri, principal investigator of the grant, says that while tooth fillings have come a long way, researchers continue to design stronger, more biocompatible materials, which will further advance dentistry.

But, it takes more than innovation to generate new products and jobs.

"The purpose of this grant is to put in place the relationships and infrastructure that lead to economic development," said Caron St. John, director of the university's Arthur M. Spiro Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and co-principal investigator of the grant. With a mission to support educational, research and outreach programs that promote entrepreneurial activity, the Spiro Center is integrally involved in the grant.

One business already looks forward to a closer relationship with Clemson.

"Relationships with researchers foster technology transfer," said Shalaby Shalaby, president and director of research and development at Poly-Med, Inc. "By being engaged with Clemson faculty, we'll know about research that is ready to be developed into a product."

Poly-Med, an R&D company based in Anderson, develops new materials into products with pharmaceutical and bioengineering applications. They license the new product to other companies, which could potentially attract new businesses or support start-up endeavors in the Upstate.

A recent study by professor Michael Porter of Harvard University, which was sponsored in part by the S.C. Department of Commerce, recommended that South Carolina develop stronger industry clusters, networks of interrelated industries. The same study identified advanced materials as an emerging seed cluster.

"The Department of Commerce has high expectations for what this grant can help accomplish," said S.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Bob Faith. "By bringing together academic researchers and private industry, this grant will help put in place a foundation that will support the transfer of knowledge from academia to industry, thus helping meet the state's goals of increasing economic development by stimulating job growth in the emerging knowledge-based economy."

Clemson University is committed to supporting the state vision of growing an advanced materials industry cluster. The new 111,000-square-foot Advanced Materials Research Laboratory houses the latest electron microscopy equipment, which enables researchers to view materials at the atomic level. The electron-imaging lab at Clemson offers partnering businesses the resources they need to bring their ideas to life.

"A tooth filling is just the beginning of the story," Bhaduri said. "As we age, we require more maintenance -- a new knee or hip, perhaps. Who knows what we'll be able to make in the future?"

Source: Eurekalert & others

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