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Niels Bohr Visiting Professorship Inaugurated at University of Southern Denmark

Needham inaugurated as the Grundforskningfonden, Niels Bohr Visiting Professorship at SDU, and will establish a new Center for Single Particle Science and Engineering in the Department of Physics Chemistry and Pharmacy.

On October 22nd David Needham PhD, was officially inaugurated as the Danish National Research Foundation (Grundforskningfonden), Niels Bohr Visiting Professorship at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark. The Professorship was awarded to establish a new Center for Single Particle Science and Engineering in the Department of Physics Chemistry and Pharmacy. The center, which Needham will direct, is built around a special experimental technique, micropipette manipulation.  The technique uses an optical microscope and a special micromaipulator that holds a tiny micropipet, with a tip dimension that is only a fraction the size of a human hair.  When placed in a small chamber on the microscope stage it can be used to form and study the properties of all three states of matter (gases, liquids or solids), as single microparticles, as well as biological cells. It is the center's ambition that the technique will help lead to new breakthroughs in various research areas such as food science and nano-biotechnology, and especailly in developing new approaches to cancer drug delivery.

The inauguration was officiated by Ole Mouritsen, Professor of Physics Chemistry and Pharmacy, who himself has been a director of a DNRF center, the Center for Membrane Biophysics, or MEMPHYS, 2001 – 2012 (see http://www.memphys.dk/).  Introductory comments were provided by Professor Mouritsen himself, by the Director of the Danish National Research Foundation, Dr Thomas Sinkjaer, and by the Dean of Natural Scienes, Henrik Pedersen.  In their comments in support of Needham’s new professorship, they were all very kind and laudable of Needham’s selection as the Niels Bohr Professor, and of his achievements so far as a researcher and educator.  Unanimously they saw great things coming from the establishment of the center, his directorship, and the range of activities he has already been involved in, and is planning to initiate at SDU.

Professor Mouristen then introduced Needham who proceeded to give his inaugural lecture that introduced the center, some of the methods and techniques they are using and developing, a brief description of a previous cancer treatment he invented in 1996, and what he now thinks he can develop here in SDU, “A Potential Cancer Treatment Inspired by Nature's Designs“.  The 1996 treatment is based on a drug formulation that is injected into the blood stream of the cancer patient and only releases its drug where the patient’s cancer is warmed by using hyperthermia.  This is the so called, “Thermal Sensitive Liposome” that is now proceeding through human clinical trials (as Thermodox®), being led by a Biopharmaceutical company in the USA, called Celsion Corporation, NJ, (see http://celsion.com/ for more details).  Needham finished his presentation with an overview of the “what, why, and how” to perhaps deliver the new, more specific anti-cancer drugs more effectively in  order to try to treat metastatic disease --the way cancer spreads through the body.  His idea sounds simple, “Put it in the cancer’s food”.  “We know that cancers make themselves especailly able to take in large amounts of Low Density Lipoproteins, --nature’s own way to transport cholesterol around the body” Needham explained.  “In cancer patients, their LDL count is even found to go down”.  And so the Center will develop a new nanoparticle cancer treatment based on Nature’s own design, by reverse engineering the LDL and creating a pure-drug nanoparticle that can, as Needham put it, “…limit the growth of cancers, kill the metastatic cells out right, or cause thjem to kill themselves”.  He concluded his talk with a vision for how to organize the research and test it here in Odense, -- with the establishment of an even bigger center that explores the body’s own (endogenous) processes, and adapts and uses them to guide such new drug delivery and cancer detection.  This organization of drug development, advanced formulations testing and treatment, could, in principle, be a template for other major diseases like diseases of the brain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

It was then the turn of the new researchers in the Center to tell of their trainig and background and present three of the projects the center has already got underway.  They were Senior Scientist and Research Prof Koji Kinoshita originally from Japan,  and the two Post Doctoral Researchers Pablo Hervella (Spain), and Barbara Korzeniowska, (Poland).  With Needham himself being originally from the UK, and also having spent 26 years in the USA as a Professor at Duke University, the Center is already starting to meet one of its central missions, to “Internationalize Danish Science”. The three new researchers made short, well organized presentations on their research: “Characterizing Lung Surfactant”, “Nano-Particle Formulation”, and “Live Cell Imaging” that each were very well received.

Needham with his new staff of SPSE, -- from Left to Right are Koji Kinoshita, Pablo Hervella (Needham), Barbara Korzeniowska, Elisa Parra Ortiz, Anders Utoft Madsen and Kasper Glud

The session concluded with a special seminar from the invited speaker, colleague, and mentor to Needham as well as Kinoshita, Professor Evan Evans, now resident at Duke University USA.  Professor Evans launched into a new problem he had been fascinated by and was currently working on. “A Problem Nature Solved: Durability and Performance of Cardiac Muscle”.  He entertained an attentive audience of physicists and biologist alike as he described his new approaches to understanding how muscles work, including the mechanical features of the molecular machines, springs and refolding materials that all contribute to our muscle cells being able to streatch, deliver force and recover from this exertion.

The celebrations concluded with a very appetizing lunch, well-earned by the speakers and the audience alike!

Already now - approx. six months after the center established itself in the new surroundings at SDU - the center is well under way with their work.  They already have 6 micropipet manipulation stations up and running on various projects  Needham and new young his colleagues at the center in the Faculty of Science, work closely with the Faculty of Health, and this is valued by the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Henrik Pedersen:

"The two faculties reinforce each other in their use of world-class research. In this case we can bring the basic scientific advances to the clinics where the treatment of the individual patient is taking place and that is very fruitful”.

Read about the Center's work with micropipette manipulation, their new research projects, EDU-Kation, outreach and more: visit their website: http://sdu.dk/spse.dk

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