CBIS: 10 years of achievement

On September 10, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies with a symposium on the intersection of science, engineering, medicine, and health care that is open to the entire Rensselaer community.

CBIS was created through the vision of President Shirley Ann Jackson a decade ago and it continues to be an important contributor to the “new polytechnic” at Rensselaer. With a focus on both fundamental and applied biotechnology research, as well as ensuring that the next generation is prepared to use the latest tools and technologies, we are developing new solutions, ideas and products, and collaborating across disciplinary boundaries to address societal concerns, challenges and opportunities in health care, including drug discovery and safety, disease diagnosis and treatment, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine. CBIS scientists are developing new environmentally friendly approaches to breakdown plastics and engineer enzymes for industrial applications.

Biotechnology brings together Rensselaer’s rich traditions in science and engineering. These strengths allowed us to create a premier space for pioneering research in a unique building that was designed to encourage and enable multidisciplinary collaborations. And it also allows students, faculty, and staff to collaborate with other schools at Rensselaer. Initiatives underway include “Biotech meets Bioart” (with the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences), “Green Wall” (with the School of Architecture), and “Bioentrepreneurs” (with the Lally School of Management).

In our first decade, CBIS scientists and engineers have created bioengineered therapeutics and antibacterial coatings for medical devices, high-throughput diagnostic chips that enable rapid identification of drug candidates as well as toxins, bioengineered molecules (including a contamination-free form of the anticoagulant heparin), nanoscale therapeutics that inhibit anthrax toxins, and bioengineered stem cell niche to aid in treatment of diseases including Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.

Looking ahead, we envision new contributions to the development of personalized medicine and preventive care, where physicians and surgeons are able to make increasingly objective decisions based on each patient’s unique biology and informed by fast, accurate computer simulations. To promote these endeavors, we are establishing affiliations that will contribute valuable resources to our existing strengths. For example, we have established a partnership with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with whom we will collaborate on educational programs, research, and the development and commercialization of new diagnostic tools and treatments that promote human health and drive down health care costs.

Dr. Scott Friedman ’76, a graduate of Rensselaer who currently serves as both the chief of the division of liver diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital and the dean of therapeutic discovery at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will be the keynote speaker at the Symposium presented by President Jackson on Wednesday, September 10 at 10:30 a.m. in the CBIS Auditorium. A reception featuring poster presentations from CBIS students will immediately follow the keynote address. RSVP at http://www.rpi.edu/news/events/biotech.

Friedman, who graduated Rensselaer cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology before going on to earn his medical degree at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is a world-renowned expert on liver diseases. His talk, “The Borderless World of Engineering, Biomedicine and Healthcare—Reflections of a Rensselaer Graduate,” captures the ongoing mission of CBIS to serve as a research hub on the Rensselaer campus for researchers to expand the boundaries of engineering and science, developing interdisciplinary projects in architecture, humanities, arts and social science, and management.

The celebration of the 10th anniversary of CBIS is part of an ongoing effort to highlight milestones of how the world has been transformed by the achievements of Rensselaer people—past and present­—as a bridge to the bicentennial of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2024. At CBIS we will be hosting events throughout the year that reflect the transformative influence of our people and partnerships.

New and uncharted territory being explored at CBIS is at the interface of the life sciences, physical sciences, computation, and engineering. It is at this frontier where we look forward to working in partnership with the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications to help advance and elevate our research enterprise. IDEA is a campus initiative that harnesses the wealth of data science research taking place at Rensselaer.

Biotechnology and biomedical research hold enormous promise for improving human health and welfare. The vision to embrace biotechnology research at Rensselaer and the investment in people, programs, and facilities have resulted in a thriving Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. With solid outcomes in our first decade, we move confidently forward in research endeavors that will truly benefit us all.

Deepak Vashishth

Head of the Center for Biotechnology

and Interdisciplinary Studies