Tracey Peake, News Services, 919/515-3470
State Chemists Get $1 Million Grant from Keck Foundation
State researchers Dr. Stefan Franzen (left)
and Dr. Daniel Feldheim. Not pictured is
Dr. Bruce Eaton, currently on a research
North Carolina State University has received a $1
million gift from the W.M. Keck Foundation to further
research on RNA-mediated evolutionary materials chemistry.
This new field will influence advances in other fields
such as materials science, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
The grant will help support the ongoing work of Dr.
Daniel Feldheim, associate professor of chemistry,
Dr. Bruce Eaton, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Stefan
Franzen, associate professor of chemistry, who have
shown that the biological molecule RNA can be used
to assemble nanoparticle materials. Nanoparticles are
particles less than one billionth of a meter in size.
“Ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules are part of
nature’s blueprint for synthesizing other molecules,” Feldheim
said. “We’re working to harness RNA’s
ability to catalyze reactions, and use it to develop
new inorganic materials.”
and Eaton developed a technique to coax specific
sequences of lab-manufactured RNA into building inorganic
materials, essentially “harnessing evolution
in a beaker.” They published their findings in
the April 16, 2004 edition of Science.
The Keck grant will support further exploration of
using RNA to create new classes of nanoparticle materials
with specific desired properties, such as the ability
to produce hydrogen. If RNA can create new materials
that produce significant amounts of hydrogen, the scientists
say, these materials may lead to development of alternative
The grant also will help support an NC State center
for evolutionary chemistry that is in the process of
“The Keck Foundation is recognized for its leadership
in driving the creation of new knowledge,” said
Dr. Daniel Solomon, dean of the College of Physical
and Mathematical Sciences. “We are excited to
receive its support of our chemists’ work in
the new field of evolutionary materials chemistry.”
Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established
in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder
of the Superior Oil Company. The foundation’s
grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts
in the areas of medical research, science and engineering.