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NSF Launches an ERC for Revolutionizing Medical Implants

Dr. Jagnnathan Sankar, NCAT

Dr. Jagnnathan Sankar, Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering

September 8, 2008

NSF Launches an Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Medical Implants

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces an award to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and its partners to establish a new NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC).  The ERC will develop interdisciplinary research and education programs that address important issues in health care and provide the foundation for new industries through innovation.  NSF will invest $18.5 million in the Center over the next five years.

Since 1985 the ERC program has fostered broad-based research and education collaborations in close partnership with industry that focus on making technological breakthroughs and developing new products and services.  A new generation of five NSF ERCs will place a greater emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship and on international collaboration and cultural exchange.

"The Gen-3 ERCs have been designed to build on the well-developed understanding laid down by the two previous generations of ERCs," says Lynn Preston, the leader of the ERC Program.  "We have added to Gen-3 ERCs several new dimensions designed to speed the innovation process and prepare engineering graduates who are innovative, creative, and understand how to function in a global economy where engineering talent is broadly distributed throughout the world.  We expect these ERCs to make even more significant impacts on the competitiveness of U.S. industry than their predecessors."

The NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials aims to transform current medial and surgical treatments by creating "smart" implants for craniofacial, dental, orthopedic, and cardiovascular interventions.  The ERC will investigate biodegradable systems that combine novel bioengineered materials based on magnesium alloys with miniature sensor devices that can control the release of biological factors and drugs to promote healing. 

Biodegradable systems offer many advantages over implants used today.  For example, the metallic wire mesh stents currently used to treat blockages in the coronary artery elicit an immune response that can lead to the growth of scar tissue and the formation of blood clots.  If blockages form again, these stents are difficult to remove and additional stents must be placed nearby.  Using biodegradable stents could avert this cycle and minimize the number of invasive procedures. 

The NSF ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials will be based at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (North Carolina A&T), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), and will be the first ERC or NSF Science and Technology Center to be headquartered at an HBCU. 

North Carolina A&T will partner with the University of Cincinnati and the University of Pittsburgh.  The Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and the University of Hannover in Germany will be international partners and contribute additional expertise and international experiences. 

Partnerships with five regional economic organizations will help the research spread into the biotechnology industry.  Eight firms, some of which are experienced in translating research into biomedical devices, are committed to industrial collaboration with the ERC.  These partnerships and the involvement of start-up firms will strengthen the technological impact of the Center's research and expose students to industrial practice.

Cecile J. Gonzalez, National Science Foundation,

Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730,
Shena Crittendon, North Carolina A&T, (336) 256-0861,

Program Contacts
Lynn Preston, NSF, (703) 292-5358,
Leon Esterowitz, NSF, (703) 292-7942,

Principal Investigator
Jagannathan "Jag" Sankar, North Carolina A&T, (336) 256-1151/52 ext. 2282, 


The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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