By Rashid Bashir, Michelle Khine, & Ali Khademhosseini
The 1st IEEE EMBS Micro and Nanotechnology in Medicine Conference was held in Maui, Hawaii from Dec 3rd to 7th, 2012. The conference brought the top leaders in the field together for an intellectually stimulating and highly interactive environment, in the beautiful backdrop of the Westin Resort and Spa in Ka’anapali, Maui. By every measure, the conference was considered a huge success.
The Conference’s all-star lineup of keynote and invited speakers represented 18 countries, with many from the United States. A total of 181 posters provided opportunity for lively discussions and productive exchange of ideas. The unique program consisted of invited 30 minute invited talks by leaders from 8am to 12pm and 6pm to 10pm. This provided ample opportunity for scientific discussions and time for site seeing and social interactions. During the 12pm-6pm breaks, organized activities including snorkeling, surfing, and beach volleyball brought the scientific community closer. The standing-room only conference room was a testament to the incredible quality of the talks. Even the beautiful Maui beaches could not compete with the quality of these presentations!
The opening night keynote talk by Professor John Rogers, winner of the MacArthur Genius Award and the Lemelson-MIT Prize, awed the audience as he demonstrated the electronic tattoos on his own forearm, and summarized his recent work on bio-degradable electronics. The body of work produced by his group at UIUC has set the standards of developing flexible and printed electronics for biomedical applications. The technology is being commercialized by 2 recent startups.
Professor Mehmet Toner from Harvard Medical School, pioneer in tissue engineering, cryopreservation, and BioMEMS , described his work on using microfluidic biochips for capture of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patient samples. Mehmet is PI of an NIH BioMEMS Resource Center and has translated many technologies to the clinic. The CTC chip has gained world-wide attention and his hallmark paper in Nature in 2007 has now been cited over 800 times already.
Dr. Belinda Sato from NIH presented the exciting work being funded by NIBIB in the area of biomedical micro and nanotechnology. Applications in point of care biosensors for cancer, infectious disease, tissues engineering, and other areas are now starting to make their way to the clinic. The strong support from the NIBIB (and that of NCI) in the applications of micro and nanotechnology in medicine is much appreciate and is advancing the state of the field more than ever before.
Professor Steve Quake, recent winner of the Lemelson-MIT Prize, presented his pioneering work in use of microfluidics VLSI devices for single cell genomics, heterogeneity of cancer cells and single cell whole genome amplification and sequencing. Commercial translation through Fluidigm and other outlets is proving how these technologies can indeed be brought successfully to the market place.
The research on organs on chips at the Harvard University Wyss Institute, led by Donald Ingber, was presented by Dr. Geraldine Hamilton. The recent activity in Organ on chip funded by DTRA, NIH, and DARPA will have a lasting impact. The goal to recapitulate the basic functions and properties of organs hold promise for rapid studies on toxicity and initial screening of drugs. There are significant opportunities for translation to the pharmaceutical industry and beyond.
In addition, 36 invited speakers presented recent ground-breaking research results and grand challenges in their respective areas. The talks ranged from nanoparticle mediated drug delivery, lab on chip for infectious disease, droplet based lab on chip, development of organs and tissue of chips, microchips for global health, and other areas. The quality of the talks, the potential and current impact in commercial or clinical applications, and the collegiality and camaraderie of the speakers and attendees made the conference a very stimulating and nurturing environment to be in. Financial support from NSF, the Wyss Institute, UIUC, UC Irvine enabled numerous competitive travel awards. Students and post-docs vied for poster and video competition awards. The ‘Junior Faculty Best Presentation Awards’, decided by popular vote by conference attendees, went to Peng Yin from Harvard and Elliot Hui from UC Irvine.
All videos and pictures of the conference, courtesy of the IEEE Life Science Initiative, will be available soon at the IEEE Life Science Portal. The second MNM conference will be held in Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii on December 8th to Dec 12th, 2014. We hope to see you all there!