James R. Baker, Jr.
Center for Biologic Nanotechnology,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
We are developing nanoscale biosensors and bioactuators for use in individual health and safety monitoring, in conjunction with external analytic bioNEMS devices. This involves nanoscale polymer structures less than 20 nm in diameter as the basis of the sensor/actuators. The structures would be designed to target into specific cells of an individual and be able to monitor health issues such as the exposure to radiation or infectious agents. These molecules would also be able to administer therapeutics in response to the needs of the individual, and act as actuators to remotely manipulate a person as necessary to ensure their safety. An example of this latter capability would be to activate muscle movement causing an unconscious person to walk out of harm's way. In addition, these nanosensors could be used to develop cellular-based biochips that would be useful as sensors for the remote detection of life or other scientific analysis. These studies are performed by a multidisciplinary team, involving a fusion of disciplines including nanotechnology-based materials science, bioengineering, bioinformatics and medical sciences. We will use these different disciplines to converge on the design and manipulation of the nanosensors, and the development of non-invasive systems to interact with the sensors through functional MRI or multispectral fluorescence imaging. This latter task would require the engineering of wearable NEMS systems by engineers involved in this project while other members of the project team would test the efficacy of these systems using biologic models, such as experimental animals. Because of these broad requirements, the research would involve the multidisciplinary team from the Medical, Engineering and basic science (LS&A) schools at the University of Michigan, and would train multidisciplinary scientists at the pre-and postgraduate level.
Dr. Baker is a 1978 graduate of Loyola-Strich School of Medicine and completed an internship and internal medicine residency at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also was an Allergy and Clinical Immunology Fellow at Walter Reed and at NIAID. Dr. Baker joined the faculty of the Dept. of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan in 1989, and is currently a Professor of Medicine and Chief of Division of Allergy.
Dr. Baker’s research has been funded by a series of grants from NIAID, DARPA, NCI and NASA in the area of gene transfer and drug delivery using dendritic polymers. Other work with synthetic lipid and polymeric nanostructures resulted in the development of a new class of antimicrobial agents with activity against bacteria and fungi spores, and viruses. This research led to a start-up biotechnology company, NanoBio Corporation, based in Ann Arbor MI where he serves as Chief Scientific Officer.
His research at the University has led to numerous academic appointments and honors which include: Director of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at the University of Michigan, where he became the first recipient of the Ruth Dow Doan Endowed Professorship in Biologic Nanotechnology; and, Director of Research in the newly created Bioterorrism and Health Preparedness Initiative in U-M's School of Public Health.
Because of his prominence in the field of biologic nanotechnology, Dr. Baker received the Medical School’s Dean's Innovation Award in 2001.