David A. LaVan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and member of Yale's Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, will participate in the National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors, one of the four centers funded. The center will be led by Professor Eric G. Jakobsson at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
The five-year grant will support a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project to design, model, synthesize and fabricate nanomedical devices based on natural and synthetic ion transporters, proteins that control ion motion across the membrane of every living cell. Nanomedicine operates at the biological molecule scale of 100 nanometers or less to cure disease or repair damaged tissues. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.
The first target for the center will be to design a class of devices for generating electric power --biobatteries -- for a wide array of implantable devices, including an artificial retina. LaVan, who was recently awarded a grant from the Keck Foundation to develop novel materials to convert sunlight into electricity, will oversee design of the biobattery for the Center.
"This focus is intended to leverage our significant understanding of ion transport at the molecular level," said LaVan, who chaired a group at the 2004 National Academies Keck Futures Conference, Designing Nanostructures, where aspects of this project were formulated. "We are set to develop revolutionary new devices to treat disease and to develop implantable devices that mimic natural functions."