How IBM is Using Nanotechnology to Tackle MRSA and HIV

Friday, April 4, 2014

While giving a talk at a conference in Australia in the mid-2000s, IBM Research’s lead scientist for the advanced organic materials group, James Hedrick, had an encounter that would make him rethink his career. At one point, Hedrick–who holds more than 100 patents–took a question from a woman in the audience. It wasn’t what he was expecting. “Why are you wasting your time with all this electronics stuff?” asked Dr. Yi Yan Yang, who works at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore. “You need to work with me.” That evening, Yang filled Hedrick in on how she was using high-tech nano­materials for medical purposes. “She was absolutely right,” Hedrick recalls. “I was wasting time doing just semiconductors.”

The result was IBM’s unusual nanomedicine program, an ongoing collaboration between Hedrick’s team at the Almaden, California–based IBM Research and Yang’s group of researchers in Singapore. The project is tackling a range of ambitious projects: creating better antimicrobial and antifungal agents, new methods of drug delivery, and novel ways of combating such diseases as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. It may seem strange that computer-hardware giant IBM is pouring resources into experimental nanomedicine, but it’s part of a larger trend within the company. “There is a huge group of IBMers who think we should be using our intellectual know-how to address global problems,” says Spike Narayan, director of IBM Research’s science and technology group. “As we’ve pushed the boundaries and engaged with other disciplines, we’ve found that some of our capabilities in materials and nanotechnology are very relevant in addressing challenges related to water, energy, the ­environment, and health care. That’s the motivation.”

Source: Fast Company (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
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