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ODU, EVMS OPEN CENTER FOR BIOELECTRICS

The Center for Bioelectrics - a collaborative research effort between Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School that could revolutionize the treatment of cancer and other illnesses - officially opened Monday, Nov. 24, in the City of Norfolk's Public Health Building.

Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and U.S. representatives Ed Schrock and Bobby Scott joined ODU President Roseann Runte and EVMS President Dr. Sumner Bell in an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony.

"The Center for Bioelectrics is confirmation of Old Dominion's role as an international leader in this new field and exemplifies the importance and possibilities of partnerships among Hampton Roads institutions," said Runte.

"This innovative new program is an exciting demonstration of our commitment to collaboration across disciplines and across institutions," said Bell.

Funded in part by a $500,000 federal construction grant administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) with assistance from the ODU Research Foundation, the first phase of the center encompasses 8,500 square feet on the fifth floor of the Public Health Building in downtown Norfolk.

Officials also announced plans for phase two, 4,500 additional square feet dedicated to "wet labs" to be used for bioengineering and biological research that will be funded by an additional $500,000 grant from HRSA. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.

"We look forward to the positive economic impact that this initiative will generate and the numerous benefits biotechnology can produce in the areas of medicine and industry," Mayor Fraim said. "It will be exciting to watch the development of the commercial implications of this technology on the region and nation."

The Center for Bioelectrics was established to increase scientific knowledge and understanding of how intense, pulsed electromagnetic fields and cold ionized gases interact with biological cells and to apply this knowledge to the development of medical diagnostics and therapeutics and environmental decontamination. It is the first use of this technology in medicine and biology in the world.

At the core of the new center is research by Director Karl Schoenbach, eminent scholar in ODU's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, and Dr. Stephen Beebe of EVMS. Schoenbach and Beebe, together with Dr. Stephen Buescher from EVMS, discovered that high-intensity electric surges for brief periods of time kills tumor cells. They have since, with a $5 million Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, expanded their work to explore the effect of electromagnetic fields on proteins and genes and to determine the parameters that promote cell growth or stimulate programmed cell death.

The project leaders also expect to recruit top faculty and exceptional graduate students, and support regional, national and international programs with the center's establishment. ODU's Mounir Laroussi, an international expert in cold plasmas, has recently joined as faculty within the center. Additionally, two tenured faculty, two visiting faculty, six international postdoctoral fellows and 14 graduate students are conducting research there.

The MURI grant consortium, which is led by Old Dominion, includes ODU faculty Ravi Joshi and Nancy Xu as well as scientists at EVMS, Massachusettes Institute of Technology, Washington University, University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In addition to new methods for treating cancers, the center and its researchers could find new methods to modify the way cells respond to drugs, create non-invasive treatments to rid food, liquids and air of contaminants, and help the military understand how the use of radiation affects military personnel.

This article was posted on: November 24, 2003

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