Nanotechnology Experts Gather for 45th Miami Winter Symposium

In its 45th year, the renowned Miami Winter Symposium focused on “Nanotechnology in Biomedicine” this year, drawing biotechnology and nanotechnology luminaries—including 2008 Nobel laureate Roger Tsien, Ph.D., as well as members of the U.S. national academies—to South Florida to discuss the latest advancements in the two fields that are fueling cross-collaborations, challenges, and new discoveries.

Organized by Nature Publishing Group and co-sponsored by the Miller School, and Scripps Florida, the Miami Winter Symposium was co-chaired by Nature’s Andrew Marshall and the Miller School’s Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm.D., professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The February 26-29 symposium explored a range of topics that included sensing and detection at the nanoscale, nanostructures, artificial membrane rafting and micro- and nano-based drug delivery systems.

In her welcoming remarks at the Miami JW Marriott Marquis, UM President Donna E. Shalala congratulated conference founder Bill Whelan, D.Sc., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, who launched the symposium in 1968 as a resource for Miller School faculty and graduate students. Marveling at how much the conference has grown, she said this year’s discussion on nanotechnology and biomedicine underscored its continued relevance.

“This year, we are here to dig deeper into a branch of science and medicine that absolutely fascinates me – nanotechnology,” President Shalala said. “Nanotechnology in biomedicine is the future of medicine and healing. It is changing how we conduct research and deliver medicine in ways never even imagined 44 years ago. Who would have thought you could develop devices less than one-millionth of a millimeter in size?”

Dedicating the conference to nanotechnology and bioscience was natural, noted Daunert, who is also associate director of the Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute of the University of Miami, or BioNIUM, which was just renamed the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute after a $7.5 million gift from the foundation.

“We had never had a technology-driven Miami Winter Symposium, but when one considers the future, the timing was perfect to bring together all these nanotechnology experts under one roof,” Daunert said. “The University got an opportunity to host the group and to highlight our core group of faculty who are undertaking leading-edge science. The scientists who presented were of the highest caliber and that’s part of what attracted other first-class scientists who attended.”

Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., a champion of the University’s efforts in nanotechnology, addressed participants, including several who were presented with symposium awards.
“Your brilliant work and your dedication to nanoscience help to modernize medicine every day,” Goldschmidt said. “Your accomplishments are extraordinary and I congratulate all of you for seizing the future of health care and doing the kind of science that will bring enormous benefit to your fellow humans.”

Among the Miller School luminaries who chaired presentations were Richard Cote, M.D., Professor and Joseph R. Coulter Jr. Chair of the Department of Pathology; Ram H. Datar, M.Phil., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and biochemistry and molecular biology; Sapna K. Deo, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Jeffrey Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology; and Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and biochemistry and associate dean for therapeutic innovation.

Several speakers were recognized for their outstanding body of work, with Special Achievement Awards bestowed on Paul Alivisatos, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, who presented “Nanocrystals and nanocrystal molecules as single molecule optical probes in biomedical imaging,” and Shuming Nie, Ph.D., of Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, who presented “Next-generation quantum dots for biology and medicine.”

The symposium also featured other giants of nanotechnology, including George Whitesides, Ph.D., of Harvard University, who presented “Simple/low-cost bioanalysis,” the first award lecture – the Feodor Lynen Lecture. Samuel Stupp, Ph.D., of Northwestern University, presented “Nanostructures, ordered gels and cell-like objects for regenerative medicine;” Jackie Ying, Ph.D., of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore, winner of a special travel award, presented the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Jubilee Lecture, “Nanocomposite design of advanced biomaterials.”

Also making presentations were Xiaowei Zhuang, Ph.D., Harvard University; Scott Manalis, Ph.D., MIT; David Walt, Ph.D., Tufts University; Mark Davis, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology; and Sumio Iijima, Ph.D., of Meijo University, Japan, who was honored with a Distinguished Service Award and presented “Nano carbon materials: present and future.” Robert Langer, Sc.D., of MIT, presented the second Lynen award lecture, “Micro- and nano-based drug delivery systems.”

Tsien, of the University of California, San Diego, who is one of three winners of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, presented “In vivo imaging of disease-associated proteases for early detection and fluorescence-guided resection.”

Several other UM faculty participated in the symposium, including Angel Kaifer, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and associate dean for research of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Leonidas G. Bachas, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The University also presented its first BioNIUM Distinguished Researcher and Educator Award to Nicholas Peppas, Sc.D., of the University of Texas at Austin. Peppas, who along with Langer is considered the father of modern drug delivery, has extensive research including in the areas of biomaterials, biomolecular engineering and biomedical engineering. His award lecture, “Applications of intelligent nanotechnologies in therapeutic delivery,” touched upon recent advancements in responsive drug delivery systems.

The Bill Whelan Lifetime Achievement Award went to Christoph Gerber, Ph.D., of the University of Basel in Switzerland, who is one of the inventors of atomic force microscopy or AFM. He presented “AFM technologies in life sciences” at the conference dinner.

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