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Welcome to the Fall 2012 issue of the
UW Bioengineering e-news

Paul Yager photo

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Alumni,

We’re proud to present the Fall 2012 issue of UW Bioengineering’s electronic newsletter. This is a year of milestones: it is the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Center for Bioengineering, the 15th anniversary of the Center becoming the Department of Bioengineering, and, on a personal note, the 25th anniversary of my move to UW. As our fall quarter wraps up, we would like to share some of the good news from the department from the past few months—from notable research findings to awards and honors to exciting new campus facilities.

In this issue and in a more detailed web feature coming this spring, you can read more about the history of UW Bioengineering, as told by some of the people who helped build us into the department we are today. We asked faculty members for their memories of the early years of our department and of the larger field of bioengineering, as well as their ideas for the future directions of the field. While we spend most of our time at UW focused on how to move the Department and the field forward, we hope this article and the forthcoming web feature give you some perspective on the achievements of UW Bioengineering as our department celebrates its anniversary years.

Also in this issue are articles about awards given to one of our junior faculty members and a doctoral student. Assistant Professor Kim Woodrow, who applies biomaterials and the principles of drug delivery to prevention of sexually transmitted infections, is one of the very few young researchers who received the 2012 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. Her research, which has just received support from the Gates Foundation, was recently published in the open-access journal PLoS One (and a UW press release on that work has “gone viral” on the web); you can find out more about her work in this issue of the eNews. In addition, you can read about doctoral student Nuvala Fomban, whose work on improving cancer diagnosis tools was inspired by seeing the toll of cancer and other diseases in his native Cameroon. Fomban was honored recently with a pre-doctoral fellowship sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Nanotechnology and Physical Sciences Training Program in Cancer Research, which will provide financial support for him and his doctoral research.

There have been some other exciting developments in the department. For instance, Chuck Murry and colleagues have published some of their work examining the dynamics of DNA packaging in embryonic stem cells and how that may affect the formation of heart muscle tissue. Daniel Ratner and his team, using technology developed in the Yager laboratory, are exploring paper-based diagnostic tools, using paper that has been chemically modified to bind to biomolecules of importance in assays. We have also included brief articles about the opening of the new Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building on the UW campus, an international honor received by Larry Crum, and the success of the Bioengineering Affiliates Program (BIOE-AP) holding its first open house earlier this fall.

We hope you enjoy this update on some of the great work being done in UW Bioengineering. And as always, let us know what you like about the newsletter, what else you might like to see, or just stay in touch, by emailing our editors at


Paul Yager, Ph.D., Professor and Chair
Hunter and Dorothy Simpson Endowed Chair in Bioengineering
Department of Bioengineering
University of Washington


Looking back at 45 years of UW Bioengineering
Lee Hunstman In 1967, the UW created the Center for Bioengineering, which then became the Department of Bioengineering in 1997. In recognition of the 45th and 15th anniversaries of UW Bioengineering, we are asking faculty members to look back at the history of the department and the field, as well as to speculate about where bioengineering is headed in the future. Those faculty comments will appear in a special web feature in the spring. As a preview of that feature, we provide here some comments from Dr. Lee Huntsman, Professor of Bioengineering and UW President Emeritus. Read more...


Kim Woodrow Woodrow receives NIH Director’s New Innovator Award and Gates Foundation support for work on nanomaterials to prevent HIV
UW Bioengineering assistant professor Dr. Kim Woodrow is leading efforts to use engineered nanomaterials to prevent HIV transmission and offer contraception. This fall, Woodrow was selected for a 2012 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award to support her work in this area. She has also received almost $1 million in funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop a new technology using electrically spun cloth that releases contraceptive and antiviral drugs. Read more...


Murry cardiac cell Dynamics of DNA packaging helps regulate heart formation
A team led by UW Bioengineering Professor Dr. Charles Murry (joint professor in Pathology and Cardiology) has discovered a new regulator for heart formation by studying how embryonic stem cells adjust the packaging of their DNA. This discovery may lead to a better understanding of the causes of heart disease as well as further insight into how other organs develop. The team's findings were published this fall in the journal Cell. Read more...


Ratner bioassay Sticky paper offers cheap, easy solution for paper-based diagnostics
UW Bioengineering Assistant Professor Daniel Ratner, using technology created in the Yager Lab, recently developed a way to make regular paper stick to medically interesting molecules. The work produced a chemical trick to make paper-based diagnostics using plain paper, the kind found at office supply stores around the world. The research was recently published in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir. Read more...


PhD Student Nuvala Fomban Using NIH-Funded Fellowship to Improve Cancer Diagnoses
Nuvala Fomban UW Bioengineering PhD student Nuvala Fomban grew up in the African country of Cameroon, and his research is inspired by his experience seeing how infectious diseases and cancer affect a disproportionate amount of the population in that country. In recognition of his work, Nuvala was recently awarded an NIH pre-doctoral fellowship.


Mol. E&S building UW Bioengineering news briefs
Dr. David Castner elected to AIMBE College of Fellows … BIOE Affiliates Program (BIOE-AP) hosts first open house, building connections with business and nonprofit leaders in biotech industry … Dr. Lawrence Crum to receive highest honor bestowed by Acoustical Society of America … UW celebrates opening of new Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building