National Science Foundation Awards $900,000 To UB Center To Study Chemical Sensitivities, Airborne Contagions

September 19, 1997

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Industry/University Center for Biosurfaces, headquartered at the University at Buffalo, has been awarded $900,000 over a five-year period by the National Science Foundation to expand its research into aerobiology -- the study of airborne contagions -- and cardiovascular and respiratory health.

The award provides for the addition to the center of a new industry/university team based at the University of Miami and focused on cardiopulmonary research. UB, the University of Memphis and the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University are the other academic members of the center, which is the only peer-reviewed national industry/university program devoted to advancing biotechnology and surface science.

The new program is focused on research that will increase the understanding of how the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems react to airborne contagions, such as those that cause "sick building syndrome" and multiple chemical sensitivities.

"The common theme of this center has been what goes on in nature when anything living comes into contact with anything that is not living," said Robert Baier, Ph.D., executive director of the center and UB professor of biomaterials.

During the past nine years, the center has produced scientific research advancing the knowledge of how artificial materials, such as medical and dental implants, interact with living tissue in the human body, as well as in marine and industrial environments.

"We have spent about $2 million collecting a unique set of data on how polymers, ceramics and metals interact with living things and their products, such as bacteria, cells, blood, sweat and tears," said Baier.

"Now we want to apply what we've learned about those interactions to whole people. We want to increase our understanding of these interactions so that eventually materials that we encounter in the environment, such as pesticides and asbestos and other substances that are making people sick, can be replaced with materials that are bland and acceptable and don't cause these reactions."

Under the new program, UB investigators also plan to test and conduct research on new aerosol drug-delivery systems at the Calspan-UB Research Center's aerosol research chamber facility in Ashford. The work will build on pioneering research conducted at UB into the development of aerosol lung surfactants for infants suffering from respiratory diseases.

An important objective of the center is to improve the competitiveness of U.S. biotechnology and of biotech companies in regions where the research sites are located: Western New York, New York's southern tier, the Mississippi Delta and, most recently, south Florida.

To belong to the consortium, each school must recruit local and national companies as industry members, each of which pays an annual membership fee of $40,000.

A total of 15 industry and government partners now belong to the center, including Johns Manville Corp., Owens Corning Science and Technology Center, U.S. Biomaterials Corp., U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Agency and CertainTeed Corp.

Companies that have worked with IUCB in the past include Procter & Gamble, Bausch & Lomb and GIBCO Life Technologies.

University at Buffalo

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