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Binary News:


Invited keynote talk “Noninvasive Cancer Treatment Using Intelligent Nanoparticles” at the 2009 Dept of Oncology, UofA Resident, Fellow & Student Research Day.

March 2009

Our biomedical nanotechnology research was reported by Pharmawire which is a subsidiary of the Financial Times Group on 30-Mar-09 11:19 by Eddie Smiley, Senior Analyst, Pharmawire.

March 2009

Dr. Chen has been interviewed by CBC on its special edition on Biomedical Nanotechnology. It's on TV and radio in the middle of March 2009.

June 2008

Quest PharamTech Inc. (A Canadian biotechnology company) formed strategic alliance with Dr. Chen’s group to create water soluble ultrasound-sensitive nanoparticles for prostate cancer treatment.


Our article entitled, “Average density of states in disordered graphene systems” Phys. Rev. B 77, 195411 (2008), has recently been featured on Nature China <http://www.naturechina.com/>.


The chip (ID #T13RF-96A-02) entitled “An Energy-Efficiency Noise-tolerant Computing Circuit Based on Markov Random Field Architecture” received the Taiwan national annual (2007) best design award (There are more than 1500 chips submitted for competition).


CFI Leaders’ Opportunity Award by Canadian Foundation for Innovation.


Best student paper award in IEEE/NIH 2007 Life Science Systems & Applications Workshop (Surface Modifications of Gold-nanoparticles to Enhance Radiation Cytotoxicity), Nov. 8-9, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, USA


Dr.Chen is invited as keynote speaker for CMC symposium 2007 (http://www.cmc.ca/symposium_2007/program.php)


"Surface Modifications of Gold-nanoparticles to Enhance Radiation Cytotoxicity" wins best paper awards in IEEE/NIH BISTI 2007 Life Science Systems & Applications Workshop


Prof. Jie Chen was elected as the associate editor for IEEE Trans. on Biomedical Circuits and Systems


Innovative Design Poster Wins First Prize.


Job available now. Click here to see the details.


BINARY's recently patented dental ultrasound device has been featured on the front page of Globe and Mail, Edmonton Journal, UofA ExpressNews and the UofA Engineering site:
The Globe and Mail's feature article
UofA ExpressNews' article
UofA Faculty of Engineering article

Welcome to the BINARY webpage!

The BINARY lab (Biology, Information science and Nanotechnology Applications and Research laboratorY) was founded in Spring 2003. The mission is to provide a cross-disciplinary research environment for exploring new nanoscale device & circuit designs and nanotechnology for bio-medical applications.

Our mission also includes utilizing information technology in this rapidly growing research area. We have established collaborative efforts with other research groups.

About University of Alberta

The University of Alberta has a rich and colourful history. Created by legislation passed shortly after Alberta became a province in 1905. It has become one of Canada’s finest universities, one that is recognized internationally in many areas of excellence.

In the Top 100 Global Universities list of Newsweek in 2006, the UofA ranks 55.

Picture with Prof. /Dr. Charles Lieber (who was nominated as the Nobel prize award for chemistry 2008, one of the final two) at a NIH meeting in April, 2009.

Picture with with Alberta Premier (Governor, 省长), Ed Stelmach, 2009.

Today, only a very small portion of engineers are actively engaged in biomedical research. Of these, only a rare few are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This dearth owes perhaps to fundamental differences between engineering and biomedical research: the engineering disciplines are highly mathematical and technical, whereas biomedical research is less mathematical and more problem driven. Each field is faced with unique challenges. The biomedical community lacks critical techniques and suitable tools to deal with enormous heterogeneous, multi-scale data coming out of high throughput devices that threaten to overwhelm them. Meanwhile, the engineering community continues to refine their considerable modeling and analysis techniques on various ‘toy’ problems, and worrying about a lack of real-world, life-science applications. If the two fields were to interconnect, their respective strengths would go a long way to remedying many current problems. The question that arises is how to begin engaging the broader engineering communities worldwide in solving complex disease problems and increase the productivity of scientific discoveries.

In the most recent update to its roadmap (http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/), the NIH has identified five initiatives: (i) Building Blocks, Biological Pathways, and Networks: In this set of NIH Roadmap initiatives, researchers will focus on the development of new technologies to accelerate discovery and facilitate comprehensive study of biological pathways and networks. (ii) Molecular Libraries and Imaging: NIH anticipates that these projects will also facilitate the development of new drugs by providing early stage chemical compounds that will enable researchers in the public and private sectors to validate new drug targets, which could then move into the drug-development pipeline. (iii) Structural Biology: A critical goal of the Structural Biology Roadmap will be the development of a broad inventory of protein structures for research as well as sophisticated new computer-based methods to analyze these data. (iv) Bioinformatics and Computational Biology: By embarking on the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology initiatives, the NIH Roadmap is paving a future "information superhighway" dedicated to advancing medical research. (v) Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology involves the creation and use of materials and devices at the level of molecules and atoms. Nanomedicine, an offshoot of nanotechnology, refers to highly specific medical intervention at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing damaged tissues, such as bone, muscle, or nerve. All five areas require a greater focus on quantitative techniques, multi-disciplinary teams and a systems approach for life science research. As biology becomes a more quantitative and information-driven science, numerous challenges arise in the development of informatics approaches to address biological questions and make an impact on health research and clinical medicine. These challenges will call on biologists, engineers, mathematicians, chemists, physicists and computer scientists to work together to develop a better understanding of integrative biology.

The theme for our recent workshop on “Biomarker Development and Application,” was a direct result of the NIH roadmap. This workshop, the third in the series, was held in the Lister Hill Auditorium on the NIH campus, and saw the attendance of over 150 engineers and biomedical scientists representing the science and engineering community, industries, and government agencies worldwide. The previous two workshops were jointly sponsored by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Circuits and Systems (CAS) Society. The success of the first two workshops led to the third LiSSA meeting sponsored by both IEEE and NIH, and the formation of a joint planning committee for future workshop programs. This committee includes program directors and scientific staff from the NIH institutes involved in the Biomedical Information Science and Technology (BISTI) initiative, as well as the officers and technical committee chairs from seven diverse societies within IEEE. The objective is to have eager electrical and computer engineers apply their expertise and technologies to biomarker development.

Critical issues for interdisciplinary collaboration between the engineering and biomedical domains include the availability of data and the ability to communicate across domains. Both barriers could be overcome by the development of seed grants for early stage collaboration. Similarly, a greater emphasis on joint funding opportunities between NIH and other more engineering-friendly funding agencies, such as NSF, DOE and DOD, would help to emphasize the need for multi-disciplinary interactions.

Scientific research and medical practice changes with the arrival of new technology, with examples spread throughout history: the arrival of antibiotics in combating infectious disease, the development of the fields of microbiology, and the proactivity of pathology with the advent of microscopy, the creation of radiology with the discovery of X-rays, the birth of the vast biotech industry following the development of recombinant DNA; and the list goes on and on. Now with the advent of genomics, proteomics, many other '-omics', molecular imaging, nanotechnology, and fast computers, we stand at the threshold of another golden era of biological discovery and progress. However the specializations and creation of silos in the traditional engineering and biomedical science disciplines stand as obstacles to the advance of biomedical research and human. Fundamental changes in conducting cross-disciplinary research are required if we are to step forward - cutting down 'silos' and breaking down walls of traditional scientific boundaries, and embracing 'team work' or 'team science,' concepts that are so alien to traditional academic communities. If the engineering and biomedical science communities refuse to see the need for change, this golden era of biological discovery may never come.

Specifically, our current research focuses on the following aspects:
  • Probabilistic Approaches to Design Nanoscale Devices and Circuits:
    Silicon-based devices are fast approaching their practical limits. Many alternatives are being explored for developing new nanoelectronic circuits and systems. Nanoscale circuits will likely involve chemical and biological processes for assembly. Compared to the CMOS circuits, the resulting circuits contain a larger number of defects or structural errors, which fluctuate on short time scales comparable to the computation cycle. The signal errors, which directly account for thermal noise when the nanoscale circuits operate around the thermal limit, also significantly affect circuit performance. Our research focuses on using a probabilistic framework to handle these faults. Under the probabilistic framework, we cannot expect the logic values in a circuit at a particular time to be correct. We can expect only that the probability distribution of the values will have the highest likelihood in a correct logic state. We applied Markov Random Fields (MRF) to obtain the optimal values of a large set of random variables so that their overall joint probability has a global maximum. We can use the MRF to encode arbitrary logics. The research involves theoretical study, short-term proof-of-concept design, and long-term nanoscale device implementation.

    The significance of this research is as follows. Much of the research in nanotechnology has involved the physical, biological, and chemical sciences. While the involvement of these disciplines is essential for advancement to take place, it is also important that computer engineers get involved early so that engineering methods can evolve with and influence the physical investigations. The novelty of our research is to integrate probabilistic approaches and nanoscale circuit design. The work eventually can contribute towards the building of low-power fault-tolerant nanosystems with broad applications in life sciences, electronics, and computation. The resulting prototype circuits and systems will also influence device experiments and nanofabrication. This research offers a unique opportunity for engineering students to apply engineering methods to emerging nanotechnology research.
  • Cross-disciplinary Bio-Medical Research:
    Applying nanotechnology in genomics and proteomics study has been an active researched area recently. The changes in genetic code of cells can result in RNA and protein alternation, which can cause disease like cancer. Understand the underline mechanism will enable researchers to develop optimal technological solutions for disease management. Early work in genomics and proteomics had been conducted using techniques such as microarray, 2D Gel proteomics, and mass-spectroscopy. Our research focuses on develop more accurate and sensitive techniques to characterize cells in the time and space domains. Our research so far mainly focuses on the development of MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) devices. However, the signal disturbance due to background noise remains as a major challenge for accurate measurement in these devices. The sizes of MEMS devices are also too large to apply for cellular and even subcellular study. Combining with our nanoscale device and circuit research introduced above, we also focus on developing nanotools for monitoring intra-cellular activities within a living cell (the size of a nanoscale device can be a hundred time smaller than that of a cell).

    The significance of this research is as follows. We expect that our new MEMS and Nanotools can be combined with advanced signal processing methods in data collection and analysis and in the verification of gene and protein networks. The development and applications of these nanotools can benefit cancer genomics and proteomics and has the potential to make significant contribution to the understanding of cancer biology and the diagnosis and management of oncological diseases.

To better facilitate our nano-bio research, I joined the National Institute for Nanotechnology (nominated as a fellow), and am also affiliated with the University of Alberta as an associate professor (starting from August 1, 2005) . Specifically, the research facility here is as follows.

  • Nanofabrication Lab:
    This micro and nano fabrication facility has over $18 million worth of process equipment. The equipment includes deposition, lithography, wet and plasma etching, and many other specialized tools. Our unique capabilities included: Deep Silicon RIE, Nano-scale lithography and Micro Embossing of plastic pieces. We are adding another 6M equipment next year including
    • an enhanced capability e-beam lithography system to supplement our existing system, capable of grey-scale processing and in situ manipulation
    • a stepper to enable high density, multimask devices for NEMS and MEMS researchers
    • step and repeat nano imprint lithography system
    • upgrades to the photomask generator to enable much higher throughput
    • dry etch and chemical mechanical polishing upgrades to enable metal and magnetic material device patterning
  • National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT):
    NINT's $40 million, 15,000 square-metre structure will be among the most technologically advanced research facilities in the world. The NINT is an integrated, multi-disciplinary institution involving researchers in physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, informatics, pharmacy and medicine. The Canadian government and local government invested hundred-million dollar worth of equipment for nanotechnology research. The main focus is the integration of nano-scale devices and materials into complex nanosystems that can be constructed and programmed for a particular application.
  • Center of Excellence in Integrated Nanotools:
    The object of this center is to facilitate and accelerate nanotechnology research and commercialization through the support, development and integration of a suite of computational tools to assist in the design, visualization and modeling of nanosystems, and computational nanotools will assist researchers in better quantitatively understanding and controlling their systems.

Thank you for your interest in our research programs. Wish you enjoy this visit !

Dr. Jie Chen

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