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Scientists Already at Work in New BioTech Building at University of Utah

Chemist Mark Porter in his new lab at the James L. Sorensen Molecular biotechnology building

By Andrea Smardon

ustar audio try number 3

Salt Lake City, UT – Chemistry Professor Mark Porter thought he would retire at Iowa State. But today he finds himself in a brand new lab at the University of Utah surrounded by windows, looking at an expansive view of north Salt Lake City.

Porter was recruited by USTAR about 5 years ago, and he moved 3 months ago into a lab in the new James L. Sorensen Molecular biotechnology building. A few graduate students are busily squirting solutions into small vials. Porter and his team of researchers call themselves nanotechnologists.

"We're trying to take some of the discoveries from this new scientific arena, and apply them to early disease detection," he said.

Porter and his team have developed the first system to accurately diagnose pancreatic cancer at a stage that might improve mortality rates.

"What drew us to University of Utah was not just the strength of the university as an education research institute, but Utah is unique in that we have a strong medical school, strong cancer research group, we have ARUP laboratories, which is one of the world's leading diagnostic test laboratories. So we thought we had some tools that potentially could make some changes, change how we deal with human health for example. Utah gives us the chance with our collaborators to do that," said Porter.

USTAR's Marketing Director Michael O'Malley says the building was designed with these collaborations in mind.

"The USTAR building is located on campus between the engineering buildings and the health sciences school of medicine up on the hill," O'Malley said, "We see this as a crossroads between the health sciences and the engineers who can develop the solutions for clinicians to use to tackle big problems."

O'Malley says the new USTAR facility - which houses the Nano Institute of Utah, the Brain Institute, and Department of Bioengineering - not only allows the state to bring in faculty and foster collaboration, it also brings in more research money.

"University researchers will be able to go after larger grants at the federal level. This puts us in a very competitive position to compete with other large institutions around the country," said O'Malley, "For every million dollars of research funding that comes into the state of Utah, that's about 20 additional jobs. This is an important economic development advantage for us to cultivate."

O'Malley says new nanofabrication and imaging labs - can also be used by companies in Utah, furthering USTAR's goal of providing a collaborative nexus for industry and academia.

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