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MIT cancer program granted $3.2 million

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An MIT program designed to identify early signs of cancer using nanotechnologies has been named one of 12 national Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnerships through the National Cancer Institute.

The partnerships, announced Oct. 17, are tightly focused programs to develop the technologies to underpin new products in the war against cancer.

MIT's program, led by Associate Professor Scott Manalis of biological and mechanical engineering and of media arts and sciences, will be funded with a five-year, $3.2 million grant. It will develop microfluidic devices whose nanochannels are capable of concentrating rare proteins that may serve as early signs of cancer. Together with another chip-based device, they will detect and quantify the proteins. The initial focus of the program will be prostate cancer.

Manalis' collaborator on the program is Jongyoon Han, an assistant professor with appointments in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Biological Engineering Division.

"The timing for this award couldn't be better because we are ready to go with our technology. We are ready to solve the hard problems that remain for us to create a clinically useful fluidics device that will impact medicine in a real way," said Manalis.

The Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnerships are part of a $144.3 million, five-year NCI initiative for nanotechnology in cancer research. Earlier this month the NCI announced that MIT and Harvard will receive a five-year, $20 million grant to form the MIT-Harvard Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.

The center is one of seven multi-institutional hubs across the nation that will integrate nanotechnology across the cancer research continuum and provide new solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. It will be led by Institute Professor Robert Langer and Professor Ralph Weissleder, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 26, 2005 (download PDF).

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