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MU Dedicates International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine

'We came here to do something that has never been done before,' Hawthorne says

Oct. 20, 2008

Story Contact:  Christian Basi, (573) 882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) may be too complex for most individuals to understand. However, Fred Hawthorne has been working on this therapy for more than 30 years, and the director of the new University of Missouri International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine (I2NM2) says that BNCT may one day be the key to treating some of the deadliest cancers humankind has known.

Hawthorne and his research team came to Mizzou in August 2006 to utilize a rare collection of biomedical and nuclear science expertise in the same location. His vision was to establish an institute that would combine his expertise in boron chemistry and biomedicine, while enhancing the collaboration in biological and nuclear sciences. By accomplishing this, he could create an institute to explore the possibility of treating diseases such as cancer and arthritis from a new perspective, using an old scientific discovery.

“We came here to do something that has never been done before,” Hawthorne said. “The University of Missouri has three features that separate it from other universities in the country. First, it is an example of a small number of universities in the United States with a large number of science disciplines and humanities on the same campus. Second, the largest university research reactor is located at MU and is situated a ‘chip shot’ away from our laboratory. Finally, it has very strong, collegial biomedicine departments. This combination is unique. We needed a place to conduct our research, but we needed the right place to do it.”

On Monday, Oct. 20, MU officials dedicated the $10 million research building of the I2NM2. The Institute is a campus-wide research center dedicated to the discovery and application of basic and translational medical science based upon previously unexplored chemistry, combined with nanotechnology and bioscience. Currently, the new I2NM2 is staffed with four faculty members in chemistry and radiation biology. A research team of approximately 25 researchers is employed currently, and an additional 15 to 20 researchers are expected to join in the next two years.

The I2NM2 research team is engaged in multifaceted research projects involving the creation of novel materials, devices and agents enhanced by nanotechnology. These discoveries have applications in medicine and other related science fields. Current research is focused on six areas:

 Molecular nanoparticles that would assist in diagnostic or therapeutic interventions of cancer.
 Demonstrated use of BNCT in cancer, arthritis and radiation-mediated surgery.
 Development of nano-sized molecular “motors” with biomedical applications.
 Design of new, high-energy materials for energy storage.
 Development of advanced hydrogen storage.

The dedication of the institute is being celebrated with a three-day international symposium featuring the discovery of new chemistry and its interface with biology, nanoscience and translational medicine. Sixteen internationally known scientists including a Nobel Laureate, members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, fellows of the British Royal Society, and a NASA astronaut participated in the symposium.