Dartmouth and UNH Team Up for $20 Million Project to Develop Better Biomaterials

September 20, 2018

The five-year NSF grant supports NH's growing industry of biomaterials used in implants and tissue engineering

Dartmouth faculty will join researchers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in a $20 million National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project aimed at developing innovative approaches to the design and manufacturing of biomaterials used in implants and tissue engineering.

The five-year award from NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) will fund the UNH-based “NH-BioMade” project aimed at supporting the state’s rapidly growing biomaterials industry through research, capacity building, education and academic-industrial partnerships.

“This is a true collaboration of two institutions, where we are leveraging the resources and expertise at our respective institutions to advance research that has the potential to vastly improve a patient’s quality of life. It also serves as a basis for future collaborations,” said Ian Baker, Dartmouth’s Sherman Fairchild Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and co-principal investigator on this project.

Doug Van Citters Biomaterials class
Dartmouth engineering professor Doug Van Citters teaches Thayer's biomaterials course and conducts research in orthopaedic failure analysis and design.

The project will focus on research and development of biomaterials that can replace parts or enhance functions within the human body, for instance composites that can replace a fractured skull, biosensors that can help better detect body’s reactions to chemicals, or microscopic polymeric scaffolds in tissue engineering to replace damaged tissues. The key, Baker said, is to better understand and develop materials that are both cost-effective and work seamlessly within the human body.

Unique to this project is the statewide investment in students who will go on to work in this industry at various levels and job functions. The project will also partner with Keene State College and the Community College System of New Hampshire, as well as New Hampshire businesses in the biotech sector to develop education programs and workforce training in biomaterials and bioengineering fields. Brad Kinsey, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at UNH, will serve as the principle investigator.

“This project represents an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the expertise of UNH and Dartmouth faculty in a way that truly benefits the entire state,” said Dartmouth engineering professor Douglas Van Citters, a co-principal investigator of the project.  “I’m excited to work with the entire team to help establish the infrastructure that will eventually help translate a broad spectrum of ideas into clinically useful products.”

Along with Baker and Van Citters, Dartmouth chemistry professors Katherine Mirica and Chengfeng Ke will also co-lead or support major areas of research for this project with UNH faculty.

“The research and design of biomaterials will help save lives, and I am thrilled to see the National Science Foundation recognize New Hampshire’s role in the development of this cutting-edge technology,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who advocated for this funding as the Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee in the Senate. “This grant will allow New Hampshire to expand its research capacity throughout the state through workforce development programs, growing our economy and creating jobs.”