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UCLA Engineering Awarded Grant from the NIH to Establish Nanomedicine Development Center

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A team of scientists from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UC Berkeley's College of Engineering has secured a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health Roadmap for Medical Research initiative aimed at improving nanomedical research.

Their discoveries could enhance methods of curing diseases like cancer as well as viral infections at the molecular scale.

The nanomedicine grant, with a proposed budget of $7 million, will support the new NIH Nanomedicine Development Center for Cell Control, to be led by UCLA Engineering professor Chih-Ming Ho. 

The center will apply advanced engineering techniques and life science knowledge to control and investigate how the human body works at the most basic level. The cells of the human body are composed of millions of molecules.

Researchers aim to control the interactions of these molecules in an effort to help doctors create cures for diseases based on how the body’s cells actually function.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead this important multidisciplinary and multi-campus effort," said Ho, who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and holder of the Ben Rich-Lockheed Martin endowed chair.

"This center boasts a collaborative team with key strengths in both engineering and medicine - a critical combination in nanomedicine."

"By taking the unorthodox approach of directly controlling the molecular circuitries in cells, we hope to help effect critical changes in the treatment of disease."

The center’s research could ultimately aid in accelerating the development of medicine for diseases that do not respond to current medical treatments.

One application will be the investigation of an optimal drug cocktail to better manage disease development, as well as mapping the molecular events that trigger stem cells to differentiate into specific cell types.

"This grant puts UCLA and UC Berkeley among an elite group of universities that are recognized as leaders in nano research," said UCLA engineering dean Vijay K. Dhir.

"We expect this new center will build upon UCLA Engineering’s research and education capabilities and further expand collaborative efforts with medicine to achieve exciting advances in nanomedicine."

Gerald S. Levey, M.D., vice chancellor of medical sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said, "UCLA is successful not only because our faculty and staff are among the most highly skilled in the world, but also because as a team our strength far exceeds the sum of its parts."

"The Nanomedicine Center will strengthen the collaborative ties that already exist between researchers in engineering and medicine. Together we will continue to push the boundaries of scientific research."

"California’s great colleges and universities have led many ground-breaking initiatives individually," said UC Berkeley Engineering dean A. Richard Newton.

"But this new center illustrates the growing importance of close collaboration among our top-notch researchers at different UC campuses for the benefit of the state."

"This is very much the kind of synergistic and forward-thinking research required to compete effectively in a world that thrives on innovation."