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WM Keck Foundation Awards 1 Million to Drexel for Nanotube-based Probe Institute

August 10, 2007

The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded $1 million to Drexel University in establishing the Keck Institute of Attofluidic Nanotube-based Probes.

The goal of the two-year initiative is to design and build nanotube-tipped probes that are able to interrogate single organelles inside living cells. The resulting tools are expected to produce major advances in cell biology, drug discovery and medicine and have far-reaching broader impacts.

Drexel professors Drs. Yury Gogotsi, Gary Friedman and Bradley Layton of the College of Engineering, Jane Clifford of the Drexel University College of Medicine and Elisabeth Papazoglou of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems will serve as the investigators for the project.

“The highly competitive Keck Foundation awards focus on cutting-edge, high-impact research and also serve as an important recognition of intellectual and organizational capacity and its people,” said Selcuk Guceri, dean of the College of Engineering. “The recognition is an important milestone for Drexel as it becomes one of the leading research universities in the world.”

The newly developed probe will be based on engineered carbon nanotubes capable of metering and transferring fluids with volumes of approximately one attoliter (10-18 of a liter) while performing electrical, optical and mechanical measurements of the probe environment. The proposed devices feature controlled surface functionality of carbon nanotubes, magnetic properties permitting remote manipulation and control and embedded nanoparticles for sensing.

“We were among the first in the world to study fundamentals of fluid behavior in individual nanotubes,” said Gogotsi, principal investigator for the project.

Success of this work could lead to breakthroughs in the development and application of sub- cellular tools that can be used to directly detect and treat diseases such as cancer at the cellular level. It could also dramatically improve the ability to detect toxins in air and water at the single- molecule level identifying a possible biological attack and other threats.

Based in Los Angeles, the W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W.M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering. The Foundation also maintains a Southern California grant program that provides support in the areas of civic and community services with a special emphasis on children and youth.

Founded in 1891, Drexel is Philadelphia’s technological University, widely recognized for its focus on cooperative education and technology. The University has distinguished itself over the past decade as an institution with a rapidly growing research enterprise. Drexel faculty have responded to national trends by developing and participating in the growth of multi-investigator programs that produced cutting-edge research and technology. These programs have increasingly generated technologies that are successfully commercialized and introduced into the public sector.


News media contact: Brian Rossiter, Drexel News Bureau 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or

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