Ian Bruce, Professor of Nanobiotechnology at the Department of Biosciences at the University of Kent gave a special seminar at the Wessex Institute, which discussed the interface between ‘nano and bio’ sciences. The Nanobiotechnology Research Group at Kent is a multi-disciplinary group involved in biology, organic and inorganic chemistry and environmental sciences.

Before joining the University of Kent Ian was working as Professor of Molecular Biology at the Universita degli Studi di Urbino in Italy.

Nanobiotechnology is the technology exploiting the interface between nano- and bio- and involves a high degree of cross cutting activity and depends on close collaboration between life, biophysical and chemical sciences as well as engineering.

Currently his research is focused on ‘bottom-up’ synthesis of complex nanocomposites, where he carries out research on the phenomena of self-assembly or self-organisation of biomolecular systems such as cell membranes or virus particles, in order to adapt these principles to the technical production of nanostructures (organic and inorganic, as well as their hybrid).

Ian’s talk concentrated more specifically on the work at Kent University associated with making efficient functional complex composite materials on the nanoscale and this associated chemical processes which work well in an “in vitro” context, most particularly in “in vitro” diagnostics. Ian also highlighted the work of his research group in molecular genetics and biology relating to understanding and characterizing regulatory network structure function relationships in complex biological systems.

A wide variety of new organic and inorganic materials are now being investigated, such as those that can be:

  • Used in bioanalytical and biodiagnostic applications
  • Used in imaging cells and living organisms
  • Described as biomimetic or bio-replacement, eg “artificial bone”
  • Described as bioadsorvable or reabsorvable, eg “scaffolding templates”
  • Used to deliver and promote the activity of pharmaceuticals
  • Used as biocides or bio-inhibitory agents
  • Reduce tissue rejection in transplantation and increase biocompatibility
  • Of utility in the food and cosmetics industries, eg nanoparticles based sun cream and design foods
  • Used for bioremediation and decontamination

Ian also referred to the chemistry that made possible the above and surface/interface science.

Ian’s group is involved in several EU projects, including one called Chill-on, which is also supporting work at the Wessex Institute. Their most recent contract involves the development of molecular motors, which is a topic of great current interest.

The talk was followed with great interest by the WIT researchers and led to a very interesting discussion.