Officials and researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) gathered on Oct. 25, 2012, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the two institutions' ongoing collaboration to advance bioscience and biotechnology through their combined expertise in the biological and quantitative sciences, medicine and engineering.
The anniversary program at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) near Gaithersburg, Md., included a scientific seminar and a ceremony recognizing two of the collaboration's guiding principals, Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP), and Willie E. May, the NIST Associate Director for Laboratory Programs.
"IBBR is a model for government and public-private collaboration," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "Just 25 years after its founding, actually a rather short time in research years, it is an internationally recognized organization."
The partnership between the two research institutions began in the late 1980s with the creation of the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB). CARB was a joint effort of UMD, NIST and the Montgomery County, Md., government, which leased land and financed the construction of the initial CARB facility. Since then, the partnership has grown to encompass additional UMD research centers, including the Center for Biosystems Research (CBR) in College Park, Md., and the University of Maryland-Baltimore's Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics.*
In 2010, CARB and CBR were formally merged into the IBBR, where recently, NIST and the University of Maryland have established a Partnership for the Advancement of Complex Therapeutics with the mission of accelerating the development of measurement science, technologies and standards in the area of complex therapeutics and the diagnostics that support their clinical utility. The initial focus will be on protein biologic drugs and vaccines.
IBBR researchers, drawn from UMD and NIST, work in the areas of structural biology, biophysics, genomics and proteomics, nanobiotechnology, pathobiology, and computational biology. The institution established an early reputation for determining the molecular structure of proteins, one of the core problems in biotechnology. IBBR research has helped to better understand basic protein interactions involved in autoimmune disorders and the mechanisms and possible counter actions for antibiotic resistance, and developed ways to improve the stability of proteins for biotechnology applications. One protein engineered by IBBR researchers has been licensed and applied to tasks as varied as improving stain-removal properties of laundry detergents and purifying other proteins for analysis.
For other examples of IBBR research, see "'Kissing' RNA and HIV-1: Unraveling the Details" (Jan. 30, 2004), "Long-Sought Protein Structure May Help Reveal How 'Gene Switch' Works" (Feb. 6, 2009) and "Fish Flu: Genetics Approach May Lead to Treatment" (Nov. 8, 2011).
More information on the IBBR is available at http://www.ibbr.umd.edu/.
* See the 2007 announcement,"NIST, UMBI to Expand Cooperation in Bioresearch."