Sandia LabNews

Labs researchers share their work at annual biotech conference

Labs researchers share their work at annual biotech conference

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From adapting a Sandia-developed decontamination foam for sterilization of cattle trucks to detecting early stages of gum disease with a hand-held chem lab on a chip, Labs scientists shared their research during the fourth annual BioScience and Technology Symposium (BS&T) Oct. 26-27 in Santa Fe.

Some 100 researchers from Sandia/New Mexico and Sandia/California attended the symposium filled with presentations on work they are doing in the area of bioscience and technology.

“I found this to be a very exciting day and half,” said Julia Phillips, Director of Physical, Chemical, and Biomolecular Science Center 1100 and chair of the Sandia BS&T Council. “Sandia’s biotech effort has grown considerably from the little nucleus it started with not too many years ago.”

A revised symposium format let attendees hear from leaders of Strategic Management Units (SMUs) that have some biotech components associated with them and learn about their colleagues’ work.

Julia said interest in biotech is growing at the Labs. In the FY05 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funding cycle, 60 proposals had biotech components. Of those, 25 were funded, representing about 10 percent of all the LDRD awards.

“The LDRDs span across all areas,” she said. “As a result the [BS&T] council felt it was a good time to bring everyone together to get a sense of the breadth of what people are working on and the mission drivers for the work.”

Anup Singh (8321) told about his efforts to develop a chem lab on a chip to use in detecting gum and heart disease. Chem lab on a chip, formally called µChemlab™, is a Sandia initiative to build a hand-held “chemistry laboratory” the size of a palm-top computer. The adaptation of using it for medical purposes came about because of new funding from outside sources, Anup said.

A Sandia-developed decontamination foam used in the past to kill anthrax is now being studied as a way to disinfect farm equipment hauling cattle to ensure that meat supplies are safe, said Bruce Kelley (6245). This is just one of the many agriculture/bio activities in Division 6000 he talked about.

Some of the other topics and their presenters at the symposium were Single Molecule Approach to Biophysics, Khai Luong (8353); Protein Microarrays for Biowarfare Agent Detection, Amy Herr (8321); Biomedical Projects in 15200, Kelly Jorgensen (15233); Bio/Micro Fuel Cell Grand Challenge Project, Kent Schubert (1763); Bio Cognition Work in 15000, John Wagner (15241); Interaction of Proteins with Lipid Films, Mike Kent (1812); Biological Weapons Nonproliferation, Ren Salerno (6928); and Studies of Signaling/Domains in Model and Biological Membranes, Alan Burns (1116). A wide variety of other work was presented at a poster session.

Following the presentations, directors present talked about how successful the event was and what still needs to be done in the area of biotech.

“I reflect back eight or nine years ago when Mim [John, VP 8000] was trying to convince the SMUs that chem/bio was important,” said Marion Scott, Director of Microsystems Science, Technology & Components Center 1700. “It was a difficult sell. Today it’s not a difficult sell.”

Director of the Center for Exploratory Systems and Development 8100 Rick Stulen noted that while the symposium was excellent, “we are still struggling to put together a coherent story around bio. We still have our work cut out for us. It requires everyone to pull together.”

Julia said that the biotech work at Sandia was all about interfaces.

“It’s interfacing science, technology, and engineering,” she said. “Sandia is choosing the science problems we attack with national security in mind. We may see results of this work decades in the future.”

The second interface she said is occurring between various Sandia organizations, while the third involves Sandia’s partnering with outside organizations.

“We are giving more careful thought to our external partnerships. We are transitioning from being a contributing partner to leading more of these partnerships,” she said

The final interfaces she noted are between disciplines — bio, micro, nano — and between various funding agencies.