Biotechnology to protect soldiers of the future, report says

June 26, 2001

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Biotechnology could protect American soldiers from injury, infection, and chemical weapons on the high-tech battlegrounds of the future, according to a report released by the National Research Council (NRC) today.

Mauro Ferrari, Director of the Biomedical Engineering Center and Associate Director of the Heart and Lung Research Institute at Ohio State University, served on the advisory committee for the report, entitled "Opportunities in Biotechnology for Future Army Applications."

Ferrari, who also holds professorships in internal medicine, mechanical engineering, and materials science at Ohio State, said the report "outlines vital areas of biotechnology research that hold great potential for enhancing soldiers' performance in the field, and helping them return home safely."

Among technologies discussed in the report is Ferrari's area of investigation: tiny medical devices that are so small, they must be measured in micrometers or nanometers -- millionths or billionths of a meter.

Ferrari is developing tiny silicon capsules -- about the size of a pinhead -- that can be implanted beneath the skin to deliver medicine. Such capsules could contain sensors that monitor a person's health and dispense medicine when needed.

The NRC report suggested that these capsules could one day detect when a soldier has been exposed to biological warfare agents, and dispense appropriate antidotes. The same kind of capsule could dispense antibiotics to injured soldiers, as well, if needed.

The report committee outlined several recommendations for how the Army should proceed in developing biotechnology. Among its conclusions, the committee recommended that the Army should:

collaborate with researchers in industry and academia who are already investigating biotechnology for commercial applications, and provide funding in these areas; work with the government to find ways to expedite the development of products that could potentially benefit soldiers confronted with an urgent threat or special need; and address the general public's concerns with the ethical aspects of biotechnology.

Ferrari's colleagues on the report committee included researchers from University of California, Berkeley; Case Western Reserve University; University of Connecticut; University of Georgia; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Michigan; Princeton University; and Purdue University. Representatives from General Motors, Photonic Sensor Systems, Inc., Cepheid, Inc., TranXenoGen, Inc., and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency served on the committee as well.
-end-
Contact: Mauro Ferrari, 614-292-4756; Ferrari.5@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, 614-292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

Ohio State University

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