The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a collection of many institutes and a few independent centers; this organization is constantly changing. In the area of nanotechnology at NIH, there are a total of 28 relevant projects supported by 9 institutes and one center. Among these are the National Center for Research Resources, the Cancer Institute, the Dental Institute, and the National Institute for General Medical Sciences. All of these nano-related projects together represent a funding level of roughly $9 million dollars. One NIH institute, the National Institute for Human Genome Research, is the primary supporter of the development of nano chips for sequencing. These are specific projects that we are able to identify; this number is probably a low figure; if the $9 million amount is doubled, it may be closer to the actual scale of NIH research support in the nanotechnology area. Based on a brief review of the FY96 budget, the level of NIH support for this area seems to be going up slightly. The interest in these technologies at NIH appears to be significant.

This is a brief overview of the kind of activities NIH supports related to the present WTEC study. This is based on a search of the database of related projects funded throughout NIH. As a specific example, the National Center for Research Resources supports a Resource Center at the University of Michigan entitled "Center for Neural Communication Technology." David Anderson is the principal investigator and Ken Wise is a coinvestigator. They are developing micro-arrays of electrodes based on the jet film approaches using silicon substrates. They currently have operational electrode arrays of 8 by 8 that make 64 electrodes, each electrode with 4 stimulating or receiving sites; that makes 256 total, so they can put this in the brain and get 256 signals from various neural brain cell areas to monitor brain cell areas in that area. They can incorporate a microchannel using micromachining that allows placement of nanoliter quantities of chemicals in various areas to stimulate and change the environment. We are excited about this project, even though it is fairly small as far as money goes -- about $750,000 per year.

It is interesting to note that when we first tried to search this database we used "nanotechnology" as the keyword and didn't get one hit -- people don't use that term generally at NIH, at least not when writing their abstracts. But with the keyword "microfabrication," 9 projects came up that account for some $4 million a year, and another 20 projects specifically were using chip technology, accounting for roughly $5 million. The bulk of chip technology projects are with the new National Institute for Human Genome Research and involve DNA sequencing. Other applications include assaying biochemical and sensor development. A brief list (see following viewgraphs) of chip technology uses includes HIV drug resistance determination, a chip for hypothermia, and one for cancer treatment. This latter application is an emerging therapy approach. One interesting application involves a novel approach to delivering aerosols to lungs with a large array of extremely small micro-nozzles. Medical imaging is another important application area, and nano force measurement is another area of real interest. There is a general interest in sensors.

Projects Supported by NIH in FY95

Chip Technology Use



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Published: January 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian