The future of biomedical research requires not only innovative science and technology, but a reinventing of the research process itself. This vision of a new academic research blueprint emphasizing interdisciplinary efforts at the interface between life sciences, physical sciences and engineering is the compelling reason that the University of Michigan created the Biointerfaces Institute in 2012.
Institute researchers are taking a close look at biointerfaces: the critical junctures between living cells and other surfaces, to develop new technologies for understanding, diagnosing and treating disease. Researchers are aided in their efforts by another, equally critical type of interface —daily, face-to-face interactions among researchers from diverse disciplines — to break through silos, spur collaborations, and drive innovation.
Twenty five research groups from the University of Michigan’s schools of Engineering, Dentistry, Medicine, and Pharmacy have been co-located into the Biointerfaces Institute’s footprint at UM’s North Campus Research Complex. Working together under one roof, Institute researchers are advancing research in four main areas:
- microfluidics and sensors,
- cell and tissue engineering, and
- biomaterials and drug delivery.
The Biointerfaces Institute is pooling UM’s strengths in these different scientific areas to focus on facilitating interactions between researchers who both ask great questions and solve tough problems. BI faculty have already translated new research findings into practical applications. The Institute’s projects have led to:
- A unique polymer surface that can grow reprogrammed adult stem cells to produce specific cell types in mice. The new surface avoids problems associated with growing stem cells on living tissue that had plagued researchers in the past, representing a significant step forward for stem cell therapies.
- The development of the first-ever superoleophobic surfaces by considering the effects of re-entrant surface texture on surface wettability. Such surfaces have a wide range of commercial applications, including the development of surfaces with enhanced solvent-resistance; stain-resistant textiles; 'non-stick' coatings; controlling protein and cell adhesion on surfaces; engineering surfaces with enhanced resistance to organic solvents; reduction of biofouling; and the development of finger-print resistant surfaces for flat-panel displays, cell-phones, and sunglasses.
- Unique approaches to stabilize peptides and enzymes in extreme conditions, such as on abiotic surfaces or in water-free conditions.
- Mechanisms by which "hairy nanoparticles" can selectively trap, at very low levels, toxins such as methylmercury with record-breaking accuracy, detecting concentrations as low as 600 methylmercury ions per cubic centimeter of water.
Understanding that research collaborations are essential to advance biomedical research, the Biointerfaces Institute also provides space for visiting collaborators in its Integration Space. These state-of-the-art research laboratories offer university colleagues and corporate collaborators an opportunity to work side-by-side with BI researchers for up to a year, further advancing and accelerating bench to bedside results.