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DuPont backs MIT research with additional $25M

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DuPont Chief Technology Officer Thomas M. Connelly Jr. joined MIT President Susan Hockfield and Provost Robert A. Brown on May 18 to announce continued funding of the DuPont MIT Alliance (DMA), a research program focused on creating innovative, next-generation materials.

Originally funded in 2000 as a five-year, $35 million investment, the alliance will receive another $25 million from DuPont to continue funding through 2010, Connolly announced. This 10-year, $60 million commitment makes the DMA the largest corporate R&D investment at MIT.

"The successes and experiences of the alliance warrant our continued funding," Connelly said. "In 2000, we asked MIT scientists to give us their best ideas on science that could enhance our everyday lives. The response and resulting research has led to significant scientific achievements. These first five years focused on inventing new materials using nature and biology as the design roadmap." In this second stage, the alliance will expand beyond bio-based science to work with nanocomposites, nanoelectronic materials, alternative energy technologies, and next-generation safety and protection materials, he said.

"Here at MIT, we are very proud of our long tradition of strong working relationships with world leaders in key industries. The DuPont MIT Alliance takes such partnerships to a new level, providing a model of successful university-industry collaboration not just for our two organizations, but nationally as well," Hockfield said. "The DuPont MIT Alliance is an example of academic-industry collaboration at its best, with MIT faculty and DuPont colleagues working together to define exciting research opportunities, to create wonderful new science and technology, and to educate graduate students in science and engineering in the midst of the excitement generated by the collaboration," Brown said.

Four top DMA research programs were showcased on May 18 to demonstrate the goals of the alliance: to advance basic science; to create commercial potential for novel scientific applications; and to develop enabling technologies that directly relate to the strategic direction of DuPont research and development. The featured MIT scientists and their programs were:

  • Professor Gregory Stephanopoulos: next-generation advances in metabolic engineering, including genome-wide analyses and modeling for the production of chemicals and intermediates from renewable bio-feedstocks;
  • Professor Mriganka Sur, head of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department: an early stage research program to develop a novel biopolymer-based nervous system implant that could replace nonfunctional brain tissue following traumatic brain injury;
  • Professor Linda Griffith, director of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center: a device for tissue-like culturing of liver cells, designed to provide early assessment of the toxicity of new pharmaceuticals;
  • Professor Michael Rubner, director of the Center for Material Science and Engineering: a novel material similar to the naturally water repellent surface of the lotus leaf. Potential applications include self-cleaning fabrics, water-repellant windshields, or plumbing that resists the growth of harmful bacteria by preventing water from accumulating on its surface.

Since its inception, the DuPont MIT Alliance has asked for proposals from the MIT community that draw upon the science, engineering and business expertise at MIT to extend DuPont's reach in the areas of biology, genetics, bioinformatics and catalysis. It has brought together the shared strengths of DuPont and MIT in materials and chemical and biological sciences to develop new materials and processes directed at bioelectronics, biosensors, biomimetic materials, alternative energy sources and new high-value materials. DMA also has provided an opportunity for DuPont to collaborate with MIT's Sloan School of Management to define new business models for these emerging technologies.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology--a coeducational, privately endowed research university--is dedicated to advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. The Institute has more than 900 faculty and 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Achievements of the Institute's faculty and graduates have included the first chemical synthesis of penicillin and vitamin A, the development of inertial guidance systems, modern technologies for artificial limbs, and the magnetic core memory that made possible the development of digital computers. Fifty-nine present and former members of the MIT community have won Nobel Prizes.

DuPont is a science company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture, nutrition, electronics, communications, safety and protection, home and construction, transportation and apparel.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 1, 2005 (download PDF).

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