SAN ANTONIO--Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Office of the Vice President for Research announced two new research projects through the Connecting through Research Partnerships (Connect) Program. The projects are slated to begin Sept. 1, 2016, with each receiving $125,000 in funding. The two projects will investigate biofilm corrosion in pipelines and an ultrasound drug delivery methodology.
“These joint UTSA and SwRI programs leverage talent at both organizations, build strong teams for future contract opportunities, and accelerate the transition of fundamental research to the public,” said Dr. Michael MacNaughton, vice president of the SwRI Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division.
Biofilms often cause microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) and are a serious problem in pipelines and other infrastructure. SwRI and UTSA will collaborate to gain a better understanding of MIC by collecting genomic and metabolic data from biofilms. These data will be used to develop models that can predict corrosion and identify potential novel inhibitors of biofilm formation. This research is geared toward the petroleum industry where problematic biofilms occur in many of the production and distribution processes. However, it has broad implications in other pipeline industries as well as medical applications where dental and other types of implants are used.
Manager Dr. Tony Reeves, Principal Scientist Dr. Kennedy Gauger, and Scientist Kenneth Lange, all of SwRI’s Pharmaceuticals and Bioengineering Department, will collaborate with UTSA College of Engineering researcher Dr. Heather Shipley, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department, and Dr. Gisella Lamas-Samanamud, a postdoctoral fellow, on the project “Molecular Characterization and Quorum Sensing of Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) in Pipeline Populations.”
Precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, takes the approach that no one treatment fits all patients, tailoring medical decisions by considering the predicted response of an individual. Together UTSA and SwRI will explore new ways to monitor a drug once it has been given in vivo. The team will develop a new approach using acoustic-sensitive liposomes for ultrasound-mediated drug release and then monitor the real-time drug concentrations in deep tissue.
Staff Engineer Dr. Jian Ling of SwRI’s Pharmaceuticals and Bioengineering Department and UTSA’s Dr. Jing Yong Ye will collaborate on “Ultrasound Mediated Drug Delivery in 3D Tissue Model Quantified by Photoacoustic Tomography.” Ye is the interim department chair of biomedical engineering in the UTSA College of Engineering.
“The ability to control the release of therapeutics in targeted tissues with a desired spatial distribution and at an adjustable rate according to the drug response of each individual is important for personalized medicine,” Ling said.
Over the past six years, 11 projects have been funded under the joint SwRI-UTSA Connect Program.
“Fostering collaborative opportunities for researchers from our two institutions has led to scientific discoveries and advanced technologies. The Connect program continues to surpass our expectations. These two projects focus on priority funding areas — biomaterials and biomedicine. Together we are finding new ways to address these difficult technical challenges,” said SwRI Executive Vice President Walt Downing.
“When we leverage the research expertise of both institutions and cross-pollinate efforts through the Connect program, we can spark innovation and progress,” said Dr. Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA interim vice president for research. “Our funding selection committee is looking to fund research that finds solutions for specific challenges. This year, with the two chosen projects — precision medicine and pipe corrosion in the petroleum industry —we can have a systemic impact on the people, and the industries, of Texas.”
The Connect program was founded to enhance scientific collaboration between SwRI and UTSA and increase their research funding base.