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MUSC part of statewide group getting $20M NSF grant

Sept. 20, 2017

CHARLESTON, SC – A team of researchers from 10 universities across the state, including some from the Medical University of South Carolina, has received a $20 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The money will help establish a new initiative: Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina, or MADE in SC.

MUSC’s director of General Surgery Research, Michael Yost, Ph.D., is one of the co-principal investigators for MADE in SC. Biomaterials are crucial in the advancement of regenerative healing, one of the most exciting waves of the future for medicine, he said.  

Other MUSC researchers involved in the effort include drug discovery researcher Steve Duncan, Smartstate chair in Regenerative and chair of the Department of Regenerative Medicine & Cell Biology; and Roger Markwald, who also specializes in regenerative medicine.

Yost said MUSC will receive about $2 million from the grant over five years. ”This award provides a lot of resources that will be matched with state funds to create the infrastructure and knowledge base to be competitive in advanced materials worldwide. Specifically for MUSC, this means the next generation of biomaterials. These are going to be active materials that will patients get better, have shorter hospital stays and get better outcomes.”

MUSC President David Cole praised the initiative. “Research innovation and strategic partnership are concepts that are embedded in the fabric of our institution,” he said. “We are proud to engage with the other state institutions and with the business community in MADE in SC, a truly novel, forward-thinking initiative. We are excited to continue working together to create jobs, build our knowledge-based economy and lead the way in health innovations for the lives we touch.”

Rajendra Bordia, professor and chair of the materials science and engineering department at Clemson University and the co-principal investigator and scientific director for the statewide program, described the big picture. “The vision of MADE in SC is to discover and establish new and sustainable approaches for the design and assembly of advanced materials that serve South Carolina’s STEM research, education and workforce needs, and to invigorate economic development.”

Clemson will receive $5.9 million of the grant and will hire five faculty members, support 12 new doctoral students to work with 17 faculty members from six departments, and invest in new equipment for materials research.

Other collaborating colleges and universities include the University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, Furman University, USC Beaufort, Winthrop University, Claflin University, South Carolina State University and Florence-Darlington Technical College.

With the EPSCoR grant, MADE in SC is committed to hiring 17 researchers over five years at five institutions. The universities will also invest in training postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students; outreach to K-12 schools and the public; and developing new facilities.

The science will address four areas:

  • Discovering and developing new optical and magnetic materials for next-generation information and computing systems
  • Responsive polymers, new materials that interact and respond to the environment like “self-healing” materials and paints, and lightweight, low-cost sensors
  • Biomaterials that interact with the human body, such as new coatings for joint implants and materials for tissue engineering and regeneration. Yost is one of the leaders for this area.
  • Building infrastructure for computational modeling to accelerate materials research and development

James P. Clements, president of Clemson University, said MADE in SC underscores how important academic research is to economic development. 

“Universities are hotbeds of innovation and as Clemson’s research enterprise grows, so grows the South Carolina economy. Our incredibly talented faculty, staff and students allow us to conduct valuable research that our partners in industry can build upon and which will continue to benefit the residents of South Carolina for decades to come.”

Among the current corporations in South Carolina for which MADE in SC will provide support and future employees are AVX, BMW, Boeing, CuRE Innovations, GE, IBM, Michelin, Milliken, Poly-Med, Savannah River National Laboratory and Tetramer.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the project will strengthen industries already in South Carolina while attracting new ones.

“MADE in SC supports the state’s goal of recruiting research and development in addition to manufacturing,” Gramopadhye said. “The project also positions South Carolina to be a world leader in advanced materials research.”

New undergraduate degree programs at USC Beaufort and the College of Charleston and expanded curricula at Furman, Winthrop, Claflin and USC will be developed to create a new pipeline of highly skilled workers from South Carolina’s higher education institutions into current and future thriving industries. The grant will also provide funding for summer programs to train high school teachers to deliver engaging materials science content to better prepare students for a future in advanced materials and manufacturing.

Yost said MADE in SC will make some pretty amazing things possible. “An example of materials that will come out of this: a new implant that helps communicate with skeletal muscle cells to reduce scarring and help it heal, recapitulatulating its native muscle architecture. These will be materials that communicate with the cells in your skin to help reform your natural skin, instead of scarring to help reform your natural skin.”

In the future, this will affect a wide range of conditions, for example, providing new materials to transplant patients to lessen the chances of rejection and enabling islet transplants to survive better to help diabetic patients. Potentially, it can lead to the development of new organs, he said. 

“This accelerates what was already going on. It opens a lot of doors for us worldwide and in the nation. It positions us well to be competitive in this field. It’s a big plus for the state of South Carolina and for MUSC in the future.”

Parts of this report are from a news release from Clemson University. They are used here with permission.

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 700 residents in six colleges (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy), and has nearly 13,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $2.3 billion, with an annual economic impact of more than $3.8 billion and annual research funding in excess of $250 million. MUSC operates a 700-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized children's hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (a National Cancer Institute-designated center), Level I trauma center, Institute of Psychiatry, and the state’s only transplant center. In 2017, for the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the number one hospital in South Carolina. For more information on academic programs or clinical services, visit musc.edu. For more information on hospital patient services, visit muschealth.org.

 
 
 

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