Northern Illinois University

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Narayan Hosmane
Narayan Hosmane

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

February 23, 2006

NSF awards $396,000 grant to NIU chemistry professor

DeKalb, Ill. — The National Science Foundation is providing a major boost to the research of NIU Professor Narayan Hosmane, whose work in the area of boron chemistry ranges from developing new cancer treatment drugs to finding ways to make better plastics.

NSF is awarding a grant of $396,000 over three years to the chemistry professor's research program. Since arriving at NIU in 1998 after 16 years at Southern Methodist University, Hosmane has now secured three NSF grants totaling more than $1 million.

The continued funding success is good news for Hosmane and his students. During Hosmane's tenure at NIU, 17 post-doctoral students, 6 Ph.D. candidates, four master's-level students and 18 undergraduates have worked as members of his research team, often publishing academic papers with their professor.

“I consider working with undergraduates my strength and take great pleasure in seeing them succeed,” Hosmane said. “All of my past undergraduate student workers had a minimum of two research publications each. Some that I worked with years ago have gone on to the point where they are now conducting research at other institutions and are competing with me for grant money.”

Hosmane's distinguished career has produced a long list of awards and recognitions. In 2001, he was named a Presidential Research Professor at NIU. Later that year, he won the Humboldt Research Award for senior scientists (with a stipend of about $100,000) from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Bonn, Germany. He also was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Distinguished Chair of Chemistry at the University of Hyderabad, India and the Gauss Professorship at Göttingen Academy of Arts and Sciences in Germany.

Hosmane's area of expertise is in boron chemistry, and his multidisciplinary research has both applied and basic components. It involves making chemical compounds from scratch or modifying them to obtain desired effects. His research group also investigates the composition, properties and chemical structure of these compounds.

The newly funded research will involve elements of nanotechnology and work toward the development of both therapeutic compounds for cancer treatment and improved catalysts for production of superior plastics.

Hosmane has been working for many years to advance Boron Neutron Capture Therapy—an experimental, two-step approach to cancer treatment. The treatment employs a boron-containing compound administered intravenously or through injection into a patient's tumor. A beam of low-energy neutrons is then directed at the tumor. The interaction between the boron and the beam is designed to kill tumor cells that have high concentrations of boron without harming normal cells.

The trick is finding a way to deliver optimum levels of boron to the cancer cells.

Hosmane's group recently published a research paper that details a technique for attaching boron cages to the walls of carbon nano-tubes, resulting in a water-soluble compound that can be absorbed by and selectively concentrated in human cells. One of the anonymous reviewers of the paper called the results “unbelievably spectacular.” Hosmane's group now is working to perfect the technique, while also investigating the potential for the creation of boron nano-tubes.

Carbon nano-tubes also feature in Hosmane's efforts to create improved catalysts that would produce superior-quality plastics, important for uses in healthcare and other industries. A catalyst is a chemical compound that makes a chemical reaction work more effectively.

The carbon nano-tubes, with boron cage compounds attached, can serve as a template for the production of plastic, helping to orient the individual polymer units properly so that they only connect in a desired manner—resulting in fewer defects.

The new NSF funding also will support research that aims to improve and extend the uses of two classes of catalysts that are important in the plastics industry. Preliminary work indicates that some new boron compounds synthesized by Hosmane's group could significantly increase the effectiveness of these catalytic systems and, in one case, increase the product's recycling potential. A portion of this research will be carried out collaboratively with scientists at BP Amoco's research center in Naperville.