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Researchers meet to kick off nano consortium

By Thaddeus Schug
December 2010

Sri Nadadur, Ph.D.
Nadadur explained how the goals of the NCNHIR consortium can accelerate understanding of the health implications and risks associated with nanomaterials. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Steven Kleeberger, Ph.D.
NIEHS Acting Deputy Director Steven Kleeberger, Ph.D., welcomed the researchers, as he pointed out the need for consortium-based research efforts to develop the wealth of data about the health and safety implications of ENMs. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

from left to right, Timothy Fennel, Ph.D. and Frank Witzmann, Ph.D.
RTI International center director Timothy Fennel, Ph.D. (left), discussed nanomaterial health and safety with NanoGO grantee Frank Witzmann, Ph.D., from the Indiana University School of Medicine. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

David Balshaw, center, and Jim Zhang, Ph.D., right
DERT Program Administrator David Balshaw, center, and University of Southern California center director Jim Zhang, Ph.D., right, listened to presentations by project scientists. Balshaw oversees several NIEHS-funded projects involving the development and testing of nanotechnology-based personal exposure sensors. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Scott McNeil, Ph.D
NIEHS nano grantees looked on as Scott McNeil, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute, explained how the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory will provide support and expertise to the consortium. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Researchers from the newly funded NIEHS nanotechnology centers gathered Nov. 15-16 in the NIEHS Rodbell Auditorium to introduce their projects and to stimulate coordination and collaboration among scientists. The meeting, "NIEHS Centers for Nanotechnology Health Implications Research (NCNHIR) Consortium Meeting," offered an opportunity for grantees from NIEHS programs, including Nano Grand Opportunities (NanoGO), Challenge Grant, Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES), and Research Project Grant (R01), to share and integrate data.

Sri Nadadur, Ph.D., the meeting organizer and health scientist administrator at NIEHS who oversees much of the Institute's portfolio on nanomaterials in health and safety, said, "We are diving into the unknown in our investigation of nanomaterial health and safety and health implications." Nadadur added, "The unique physical and chemical properties that make ENMs (engineered nanomaterials) so useful in the marketplace also make their interactions with biological systems difficult to anticipate and critically important to explore."

Several speakers at the meeting underscored the critical need to investigate further the impact of these new materials on public health. ENMs represent a significant breakthrough in material design and development for medical, industrial, and consumer products. Global demand for nanomaterials and nano-enabled devices will approach an estimated $3.1 trillion by 2015. This increased production provides increased opportunities for exposures with unknown health consequences that it is important to explore.

Gwen Collman, Ph.D., interim director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT), opened the meeting and noted, "NIEHS has identified nanotechnology health and safety as a high priority research area." Collman overviewed the numerous nanotechnology programs funded by DERT, as well as the in-house programs at the NTP and the NIEHS Division of Intramural Research. "We hope that this assembly of scientists can work together to push forward our understanding of nanomaterial health and safety," she said

During their two days at NIEHS, the investigators described the aims of their projects in oral and poster presentations, and offered potential areas for data sharing and data needs. The meeting included two steering committee sessions, when members deliberated on the overall goals of the consortium. In addition, members of the External Advisory Committee (EAC) and project scientists interacted with each other. The EAC will provide input to project centers, while the project scientists will provide expertise to the centers.

(Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Signal Transduction and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor. He is currently on detail as a program analyst in the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.)

left, Andrew Maynard, Ph.D., and Anita Lewin, Ph.D.
Consortium scientists Andrew Maynard, Ph.D., left, from The University of Michigan, and Anita Lewin, Ph.D., from RTI International exchanged ideas on nanomaterial health and safety. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Centers for Nanotechnology Health Implications Research Consortium (NCNHIR)

By Matt Goad

NIEHS has awarded approximately $9 million per year in grants and support over five years to study the health risks associated with ENMs. The funds will support a nano consortium consisting of five NCNHIR research centers and three smaller projects for detailed study of ENMs and their health implications. The funds also establish partnerships with the National Cancer Institute's Nanotechnology Characterization Lab (NCL) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

NCNHIR Research Program Cooperative Agreement (U19) Centers

  • The RTI International Center for Estimating Human Health Risk from Exposure to Nanomaterials will focus on the effects of carbon-based nanomaterials. Director — Timothy Fennell, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS
  • At the University of Washington, researchers will assess the risks of Qdots, luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals composed of heavy metal cores. Director — Terrance Kavanagh, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS
  • The University of California Los Angeles Center for Nanobiology and Predictive Toxicology will study how metal, metal oxide and silica nanoparticles may play a role in pulmonary toxicity. Director — Andre Nel, M.D., Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Center for Nanotoxicology that will develop an understanding of how nanomaterials interact with biological systems. Director — Joel Pounds, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS
  • University of Southern California researchers will study the respiratory effects of silver and carbon nanomaterials, focusing on the lung lining fluid. Director — Jim Zhang, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS, who recently moved from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Three individual five-year Research Cooperative Agreements (U01):

  • University of California-Davis, co-Principal Investigators — Laura Van Winkle, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS, and Kent Pinkerton, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS
  • University of Michigan, Principal Investigator Martin Philbert, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS
  • New York University, co-Principal Investigators Lung-Chi Chen, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS, and Terry Gordon, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS

Two two-year collaborations

NIEHS is partnering with the NCL to characterize ENMs used in risk and hazard studies and NIBIB to develop an extensive nano registry.

(Matt Goad is a contract writer with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

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