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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.
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.
|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:
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.
Dr. Jie Chen
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