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Exploring Bioactive Materials

North Dakota State University possesses a state-of-the-art laboratory dedicated to the rapid discovery of biologically active coatings and materials for a variety of applications. A suite of automated tools and assays have been developed in this capacity to facilitate high-throughput screening (HTS) of coatings for a number of biological responses and properties such as antimicrobial/antifouling activity and biocompatibility. A variety of conventional instruments and methodologies are also available for advanced characterization of promising coating compositions identified through exploratory HTS studies.

The Bioactive Materials Research Laboratory (BMRL) occupies 1,000 square feet of space in the Research and Technology Park at NDSU under the auspices of the Coatings and Polymeric Materials Department. Approximately 800 square feet of laboratory space has been equipped to conduct biosafety level 2 (BSL2) research activities involving the use of a variety of pathogenic microorganisms, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

In addition to the HTS of clinically-relevant materials, the BMRL possesses unique capabilities that enable the acceleration of coatings development efforts targeted at the mitigation of biological fouling in marine environments. A number of relevant marine fouling organisms, including bacteria, microalgae, and barnacles, are maintained year-round at NDSU and utilized for HTS activities. The HTS methods address both the antifouling (AF) and fouling-release (FR) characteristics of a coating, where AF refers to the prevention of organisms from settling or attaching to surfaces and FR pertains to the ease of removal of organisms that have attached or adhered to a surface. Correlations have been established between NDSU’s accelerated laboratory screening assays and static ocean immersion testing which demonstrate the “real world” predictive capability of the HTS methodology.

The instrumentation available within the BMRL includes a confocal fluorescence microscope, inverted light microscope, automated aquarium rack system, multi-well plate spectrophotometers and a customized 8-channel liquid handling robot that enables automation of microorganism-based HTS assays. Additionally, several instruments have been fabricated in-house to enable HTS of various biological responses to coating surfaces. Custom-built instrumentation include an automated water-jet apparatus designed for HTS of microbial cell and biofilm adhesion and a semi-automated force gauge to measure barnacle adhesion in shear.


Research Partners

The BMRL actively pursues collaborations with other academic institutions, national laboratories and corporations to develop new HTS methods and biologically active materials for a variety of applications. Examples of current academic collaborations include Harvard University, Texas A&M, Cornell University, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Liverpool John Moores University (UK), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Florida State University, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and the University of Michigan.

In addition to sponsored research programs, the facilities, equipment and technical expertise within the BMRL are available to interested parties as a fee-for-service activity. Please contact us if interested in initiating a collaborative study or fee-for-service project with the BMRL.

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