Penn Receives $11.6 Million to Open Center to Explore the Boundaries Between Nanotechnology and Biology

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Media Contact:Greg Lester | | 215 573 6604September 21, 2004

PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania is one of six institutions to receive funding today from the National Science Foundation for a new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.  As part of the NSEC program, Penn's new Nano/Bio Interface Center will bring together researchers from across campus to study the intersection of technology and biology at the nanoscale -- or molecular -- level.

The Penn center will receive $11.6 million during the next five years.  The funding is renewable for a second term, for a total of approximately $23 million from the NSF program, along with several million dollars in additional grants from NSF and other government sources.

"As electronics and machines are driven ever smaller, they will inevitably be integrated with biological systems, which will have dramatic technological, biomedical and social implications," said Dawn Bonnell, a professor in Penn Department of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the new center.  "The new center will bring together Penn renowned strengths in nanotechnology and the life sciences, as well as lead the national discussion on the ethical considerations surrounding nanoscale science and its potential impact on humanity."

The center research program is structured around two major themes:  biomolecular function and molecular motion.  In addition, the center will explore two cross-cutting initiatives: the creation of probes to analyze individual molecules and the ethics of nanotechnology.  A NanoProperty Lab will serve as a national resource for single molecule analysis.

"The center will unite investigators from 10 departments in Penn's schools of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Medicine and Arts and Sciences to provide the two-way flow of information essential to fully realize the combined benefits of biology and nanotechnology," Bonnell said.  "The center will contribute to our understanding of basic physiology as well as lead to new commercial applications, such as manufacturing nanoscale devices and delivering therapeutic drugs."

The Nano/Bio Interface Center  will also administer Penn new   Undergraduate Minor and Ph.D. Certificate Program in Nanotechnology.  The center will also actively work with the School District of Philadelphia to introduce nanotechnology to students in order to increase scientific literacy and inspire the next generation of nanoengineers.  

In addition to its cross-campus partnerships, the Nano/Bio Interface Center   will actively collaborate with other nanotechnology initiatives nationally and internationally.  These partners include Drexel University, the Center for Integrated Nanostructures at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, the Nanotechnology Institute, the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, and Cambridge University and the University of Birmingham in the U.K.

More information on the Nano/Bio Interface Center can be found soon at

More information on the National Science Foundation NSEC program, including the names and locations of the five other centers is available at