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Burnham Institute awarded $13 M for Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology

June 13, 2005 (La Jolla, CA) The Burnham Institute has been selected as a "Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology" ("PEN") by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute ("NHLBI") of the National Institutes of Health ("NIH"). A partnership of 25 scientists from The Burnham Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, and The Scripps Research Institute will use the $13 million award to design nanotechnologies to detect, monitor, treat, and eliminate "vulnerable" plaque, the probable cause of death in sudden cardiac arrest.

Led by Jeffrey Smith, Ph.D., of the Burnham Institute and the principal investigator of the program, the scientific team is comprised of biochemists, vascular biologists, chemical engineers and physicists. "This is a novel approach to bring experts from all these fields together," said Dr. Smith. "And it's very exciting. These groups do not normally work together. But in this instance, I think it's going to produce some real scientific progress."

Recent studies have shown that plaque exists in two modes: non-vulnerable and vulnerable. Blood passing through an artery exerts a shearing force and can cause vulnerable plaque to rupture, which often leads to occlusion and myocardial infarction. This is a significant health issue: of the nearly one million people who die each year from cardiac disease, 60% perish without showing any symptoms. As many as 60 80% of sudden cardiac deaths can be attributed to the physical rupture of vulnerable plaque.

"We intend to exploit this new understanding of atherosclerotic plaque," said Dr. Smith. "By focusing on devising nano-devices, which can be described as machines at the molecular level, we will specifically target vulnerable plaque. That cannot be accomplished today. My colleagues and I hope that our work will lead to real diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for those suffering from this form of cardiac disease."

The project team will work on three innovative
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Contact: Nancy Beddingfield
nbeddingfield@burnham.org
858-646-3146
Burnham Institute
13-Jun-2005


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