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NSF Funds New Rutgers Plant Biomaterials Initiative;

Novel technology could open new markets for American agriculture

February 27, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Professor Iovine at 732-445-0488 or iovine@biology.rutgers.edu.


New Brunswick, N.J. – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has Rutgers scientists looking to plants as a source of materials for cardiovascular stents, bone and tissue grafts, antiviral and antibacterial food packaging, and personal care products. The research will develop “hybrid” materials by combining naturally occurring plant substances, such as starch from corn or potatoes, with synthetic degradable polymer biomaterials.

This initiative can yield cost-effective, bio-based materials to replace petroleum-derived plastics while creating new economic opportunities for American farmers now threatened by low commodity prices.

The two-year project is supported by a $600,000 NSF Partnerships for Innovation program grant to the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials (NJCBM) based at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The project will be led by NJCBM Director Joachim Kohn and Assistant Research Professor Carmine Iovine, a new Rutgers faculty member.

“This project takes inspiration from George Washington Carver, whose lifework produced products from peanut and soy crops that revolutionized the economy of the South, freeing it from dependence on cotton,” Kohn said.

Iovine, recognized for his more than 40 years of industrial experience and expertise in biopolymer and synthetic polymer chemistry, came to Rutgers from New Jersey-based National Starch and Chemical Company, where he served as vice president for research and development of National’s parent, the ICI Group.

The project team will include Professor Michael Pazzani, vice president for research and graduate and professional education; Assistant Professor Mikhail Chikindas and Research Professor Kit Yam of Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Food Technology (CAFT) and department of food science; Research Chemist LinShu Liu of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Regional Research Center; and NJCBM and CAFT industrial members.

Exploring somewhat different applications with NJCBM industrial partner Salvona Technologies of Dayton, N.J., the team will evaluate the possible use of the hybrid polymers for the delivery of fragrances in personal care and other consumer applications.

“The diversity of potential applications of the new materials has brought together an exciting group which stands to gain from the new technology that this partnership will be developing,” said Iovine.

A unique Rutgers resource from the Rutgers Business School will pair education with research through its participation in the project. The MBA Interfunctional Team Consulting Program will bring graduate students into this real-world experience where they can sharpen their problem-solving and team-building skills while conducting valuable market analyses and surveys for the products potentially emerging from the project.

Materials scientists, polymer chemists and biomedical engineers will bring their expertise in synthetic polymers and biomedical technology to the project. Agriculture and food scientists and engineers will add their knowledge and skills in plant materials, biopolymers and food industry technology.

“With NSF support, our project will bring together these normally disconnected streams of science and technology, leveraging the skills, capabilities and knowledge of all the partners in this endeavor,” said Iovine.

Contact: Joseph Blumberg
732-932-7084, Ext. 652
732-816-5838 (cell)
E-mail: blumber@ur.rutgers.edu