UALR Dedicates $15M Nanotechnology Center

by Mark Carter  on Wednesday, May. 2, 2012 12:59 pm  

UALR dedicated its new nanotechnology center on Wednesday.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock dedicated its new nanotechnology center Wednesday as state leaders hailed Arkansas' emergence in the industry.

The $15 million, 50,500-SF UALR Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences (CINS) is five stories,  and consists of offices, classrooms, conference rooms, labs, cold rooms and even a greenhouse. Construction began in June of 2010, and the center was financed mostly through bonds.

The CINS will serve as a point of collaboration between the state's research universities, specifically the nanotechnology research being conducted at UALR, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the system's flagship campus in Fayetteville. It will serve a crucial role in the partnership Gov. Mike Beebe made last year with the Food & Drug Administration establishing collaboration between Arkansas' research institutions and FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research at Jefferson.

Already, NCTR is partnering with local private firms that deal with nanotech applications. It is working with Little Rock's Vivione Biosciences (formerly Litmus Rapid-B) to commercialize research involving the detection of E coli and other pathogens.

The goal of the partnership is to advance nanotechnology through research and education, and to commercialize the technologies that come from it.

Beebe, 2nd District Rep. Tim Griffin, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and UA System president Donald Bobbitt were among the officials joining UALR chancellor Joel Anderson and center director and chief scientist Alex Biris for the dedication. John Boozman, Arkansas' junior U.S. senator, was scheduled to tour the facility Thursday.

The elected officials took turns praising UALR's "investment in the future." 

Griffin cited the center's ability to attract future high-paying jobs to the state, its potential with national security, and its long-term impact on quality of life through the nanotech research being done in the areas of cancer treatment and other health-care applications.

"This will be an economic engine and a real source of job creation, here and in the private sector," he said.

Pryor said the state has developed a "critical mass" of nanotechnology researchers and businesses. By 2015, he said, experts expect nanotechnology to represent a $1.5 trillion industry worldwide.

"The U.S. should be at the forefront of that, and Arkansas should be an important part of what the U.S. is doing," he said. 

Pryor called the CINS opening "an extremely important moment for nanotechnology in Arkansas."

Beebe said nanotechnology holds great potential to enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The STEM fields of education -- science, math, engineering and technology -- represent the country's greatest needs, Beebe noted, and where the greatest number of high-paying jobs will be.

Nanotechnology research at UALR, led by Biris, has received more than $12 million in federal research grants and licensed intellectual property to four startups. Prior to moving into the new center, Biris and his research staff worked out of about 7,000-SF in a neighboring building on campus.

Currently, the first three stories of the CINS are equipped and ready for use. The final two stories are completed and will be equipped for use at a later date.

Jerry Adams, director of the Arkansas Research Alliance and member of the UALR Board of Visitors, said the new center is part of a developing ecosystem of research collaboration that will have a long-term, positive impact on the state.

"This center will provide critically important tools for that research to move forward," he said. 





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