Rice, NC State win NAS/Keck Futures funding

April 15, 2005

HOUSTON, April 15, 2005 -- A research team from Rice University and North Carolina State University have received $75,000 funding from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative to study one of the critical questions in the biology of nanomaterials: how such particles cross membranes to allow for their interaction with cells.

The program is a collaborative project between Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, professor of investigative dermatology and toxicology at NC State, and Andrew R. Barron, the Charles W. Duncan Jr-Welch Professor of Chemistry and professor of materials science at Rice.

Monteiro-Riviere and Barron's research will explore the transport nature of specific fullerenes with different substituted amino acids and their interactions with skin cells. The proposed studies are a direct extension of work conducted by the researchers defining the interaction of multi walled carbon nanotubes with human epidermal keratinocytes, and the synthesis on new nano-biohybrid materials by Barron. The researchers are interested in a range of different fullerene-amino acid sequences that could allow uptake into keratinocytes without adverse effect.

They will explore physiochemical properties such as solubility and hydrophobicity, which are often used to predict uptake and activity of traditional hydrocarbons but which have not been extended to fullerenes. They will also try to determine what properties correlate to cell uptake and what properties correlate to cellular activity.

Barron and Monteiro-Riviere's project was one of 14 interdisciplinary research programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology that were funded this week by the Futures Initiative.

Funded by a $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to catalyze interdisciplinary inquiry and to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public - with the object of stimulating interdisciplinary research at the most exciting frontiers.

Launched in 2003, the initiative is designed to enable researchers from different disciplines to focus on new questions upon which they can base entirely new research, and to encourage better communication between scientists as well as between the scientific community and the public.

The grants allow researchers to start developing a line of inquiry by recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows, purchasing equipment, and acquiring preliminary data - all of which can position the researchers to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.
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