Two Whitaker Foundation Grants to Fund Genomic Technology and Biophotonics

The Whitaker Foundation has awarded two grants totaling nearly $2
million to the Pratt School of Engineering to accelerate promising
research and teaching programs in genomic technology and
biomolecular modeling, and in biophotonics, the merger of optical
technologies with medicine.

Both "Special Opportunity Awards" went to the Department of Biomedical
Engineering. Together, they will fund four new faculty members, support
new Ph.D. fellowships, outfit two new laboratories and help develop new
undergraduate and graduate courses in biophotonics and genomic

"These awards build on the department's existing strengths in biomedical
imaging and biomolecular research, the Pratt School's major initiative in
photonics and the university's outstanding investment in genome
sciences," said Morton Friedman, department chair.

The award in biophotonics, for $999,111 over three years, is designed to
make the department a leader in the increasingly important field of
biophotonics. The program, which will work closely with the school's new
Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Systems, is
directed by Joseph Izatt, an associate professor of biomedical
engineering who joined Duke last year. The program also will build and
equip a state-of-the-art biophotonics teaching laboratory to be housed in
the Fitzpatrick Center.

"By winning the award in biophotonics, the department can accelerate its
educational and research thrust in this growing area, leveraging the
unique resources of the Fitzpatrick Center to become a major player in
applying photonic science and technology to problems ranging from basic
life science research to clinical care," Friedman said.

The award in genomic technology and biomolecular modeling totals
$979,849 and will be directed by William A. Reichert, professor of
biomedical engineering and chemistry, and George A. Truskey, professor
of biomedical engineering. In collaboration with Duke's Institute for
Genome Sciences and Policy, they will develop a graduate education
program in genomic technology and biomolecular modeling, highlighted
by the establishment of an educational laboratory for genomic technology.
Biomolecular modeling is the mathematical characterization of the
processes by which proteins and genes control the complex dynamics of
cell and tissue function.

"Engineering has much to offer to genomic science and we can be a
model for how these relationships can be translated into educational and
research innovation," Friedman said.

The Whitaker Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to
improving human health through the support of biomedical engineering.
Since its inception in 1975, the foundation has awarded more than $760
million to colleges and universities for faculty research, graduate
fellowships and program development. The foundation will disburse all of
its assets in support of its mission and close in 2006.