Area CMU Student In Nanotech

July 25, 2003
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MOUNT PLEASANT — A Wayland honors student at Central Michigan University is engaged in some elemental research regarding the use of dendritic polymers to fight cancer.

The student is Dane Genter. He is working with June Lee — a CMU chemistry professor — and Donald Tomalia, the president of Dendritic NanoTechnologies, who also is a world-renowned chemist thanks to his invention of dendritic polymers.

Polymers in this case are synthetic compounds consisting of up to millions of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule.

Dendritic polymers — also called dendrimers and artificial proteins — are the first precise three-dimensional man-made polymers. They are hollow and have exterior points to which various chemical units can be attached.

Lee explained that the particular dendrimer with which the team works has the potential for use as a drug delivery system.

“When the body ingests a drug,” she explained, “only 10 percent of it actually gets utilized by the body.” She said the dendrimer could enable the body to use the entire drug, not just a fraction of it. Thus, she said, a patient could take a much smaller dosage of medication and still receive the same positive effects but without harmful side effects.

Dendritic NanoTechnologies — a technological firm that has grown out of university research — is located in CMU's Center for Applied Research and Technology.

Genther said he greatly enjoys participating in the research. “I am learning a lot about lab procedures, which is invaluable to my field of study," he said.

He is involved in the research through CMU's Centralis program, which awards merit-based, competitive scholarships to incoming freshmen and community college transfer students who have demonstrated outstanding academic performance and extracurricular involvement. Centralis Scholar Awards provide full tuition, fees, and room and board plus a stipend for books and supplies.

Government and scientific organizations have recognized CMU and DNT in dendrimer research. In May, Tomalia received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Polymer Science and Technology from The Society of Polymer Science. DNT was one of seven organizations recently selected to participate in an elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology program.

The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology will develop nanotechnologies for future military ground troops.

In 2002, CMU, the CMU Research Corp. and DNT received $2.9 million from the Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen, Md., to establish the first National Center of Excellence for Dendritic Nanotechnology research and development.

In addition, 10 CMU faculty members received $900,000 for dendritic nanoscale research projects.

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