August 06, 2009
By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union
ALBANY -- A lot of doctors roam the halls of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Fuller Road.
But none of them are like Dr. Sara Brenner.
Brenner, 29, is the head of the college's new NanoHealth Initiatives aimed at the cross-pollination of nanotechnology with medicine, the environment and public health.
What makes Brenner exceptional is that she is the first-ever physician to be hired by the school, which is part of the University at Albany.
Brenner, a marathoner with seemingly boundless energy who has traveled the world studying medicine, graduated from the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine and recently earned her master's degree in public health from the University at Albany.
She says her role at the school will be to drive scientific discoveries that meet the needs of the medical community and its patients, while also studying the public health implications of nanoparticles in the workplace and in the environment. She will work in the labs, with patients and in the classroom as an assistant professor of nanobioscience.
"Not many physicians get to have this perspective," Brenner said. "The challenge and opportunity lies in connecting all of it." Alain Kaloyeros, the NanoCollege's chief executive, has been rapidly adding faculty members to the nanobioscience "constellation," as the school calls it. He says there are now about eight faculty members engaged in bio research, instead of one only a short time ago.
The NanoCollege has strong ties to IBM Corp. and other semiconductor makers. It is equipped with clean rooms and laboratories and is best known for its research in computer chip technology.
But Kaloyeros wants the college to be just as well known for nanobioscience, and he envisions new buildings on the Albany campus devoted exclusively to biology and medicine. IBM, for instance, is making a concerted effort to use its technologies to aid medical science.
Kaloyeros said the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health, is emphasizing nanotechnology applications for public health initiatives. He said nanotechnology is expected to grow to a $2.4 trillion industry by 2014, with as much as 65 percent of that in biomedicine and health.
"As a college that does innovation and education, it's logical for us and necessary to be in that field," Kaloyeros said. "We want to drive innovation and keep people healthier." Nanotechnology lends itself to biotechnology because by definition nanotechnology is science on the atomic and molecular levels. The NanoCollege was designed to study, create and replicate these small structures for use in electronics and even the human body.
For instance, the National Cancer Institute has created what's known as the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer.
"The organization is developing nanotechnologies to help diagnose and treat cancer," said Renate Myles, a spokeswoman for the National Cancer Institute, part of NIH.