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Photo of Tomas Diaz de la Rubia
Tomás Diaz de la Rubia
Associate Director for Chemistry, Materials, and Life Sciences

Partnering to Enhance Americans’ Health

PARTNERSHIPS have played a major role at Lawrence Livermore since the Laboratory’s establishment in 1952. Working with government, industrial, and academic partners helps us accomplish our programmatic goals more efficiently, strengthens our scientific research efforts, and provides capabilities not available at Livermore. These joint efforts come in many forms, from strategic alliances to commercial licensing agreements for Livermore technologies to ad hoc academic collaborations.
One of the Laboratory’s most fruitful partnerships has been with the University of California (UC) Davis Cancer Center. In the late 1990s, scientists in the Physics Directorate under the direction of Dennis Matthews and in the Biology and Biotechnology Research Program Directorate under Kenneth Turteltaub were seeking clinical partners to further develop emerging technologies with potential health-care applications. Matthews’s team wanted to use lasers as a noninvasive medical diagnostic, for example, to discover tumors and image cancer cells. Turteltaub’s team sought to apply the technologies available at Livermore’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry to develop individualized molecular treatments in such areas as toxicology and pharmacokinetics. At the same time, Ralph deVere White, an oncologist, surgeon, and director of the UC Davis Cancer Center, was looking for new technologies to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.
These three scientists organized a meeting between UC Davis clinical and basic biologists and scientists from several Livermore directorates. The advantages of a partnership became clear immediately, and a number of alliances were formed. A memorandum of understanding between the two institutions formalized the relationship in August 2001.
As part of the partnership, Matthews was named associate director for medical technology at the UC Davis Cancer Center, and Livermore molecular biologist and cancer expert Jim Felton became associate director for cancer control. Turteltaub also joined the center, becoming a coleader for the Molecular Oncology Program. Since July 2002, the UC Davis Cancer Center has been a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated center, 1 of 61 centers in the U.S. and the ninth in California. It also is the first designated cancer center to partner with a Department of Energy national laboratory, a relationship that draws positive comments from NCI peer reviewers.
The Livermore–UC Davis partnership has led to many health-care-related applications for existing Livermore technologies. Some of these efforts, such as the small proton accelerator developed for cancer therapy, and the time-of-flight secondary-ion mass spectrometer used for molecular imaging of cells, are featured in the article Advancing the Frontiers in Cancer Research. Many more joint projects are ongoing. In one promising effort, researchers are designing synthetic antibodies with radiotherapy agents to identify tumor cells. Another project is using bioaerosol mass spectroscopy to detect lung cancer in its early stage. Livermore scientists are also developing techniques to examine the growth mechanisms of tumors and to detect low-level calcium uptake and loss in bone.
Currently, about 25 Livermore researchers have joint projects with the UC Davis Cancer Center. In almost every case, they are adapting technologies first developed for stockpile stewardship, biodefense, environmental cleanup, and other DOE mission areas for use in cancer research. The partnership is a striking example of how science and technology developed at a national security laboratory can be used to meet other enduring national needs.
Research at the intersection of biology, national security, energy security, and health will continue to deliver important contributions to society. For example, biologically inspired solutions for national security problems, such as technologies to counter possible bioterrorist threats, may help to prevent a natural pandemic as well. In 2006, recognizing the importance of these intersecting research areas, Laboratory Director George Miller announced the merger of two long-time directorates—combining Biosciences with Chemistry and Materials Science. The new directorate, called Chemistry, Materials, and Life Sciences, will foster collaborative efforts in these vital areas and continue to look for national security technologies that can also improve the nation’s health care, including cancer research and treatment.



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UCRL-52000-07-3 | March 19, 2007