Tech Conference a Global Affair

10/20/2009
By From the Lowell Sun

By Dennis Shaughnessey

LOWELL - The world is getting smaller. Bringing together resources and knowledge from across the ocean, representatives from UMass Lowell, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Dublin City University in Ireland, kicked off the two-day Emerging Technology Conference yesterday, presenting new research in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, nanotechnology and more.

And while the average person may never know the first thing about cell density, membrane chromatography or transgential flow, there are people who do, and experts say their research could make life better. The conference, held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, included representatives from local companies leading the way in those fields, including Millipore Corp. of Billerica, Tesco Associates of Tyngsboro and Nypro Healthcare of Clinton. They displayed their products and spoke about how new technologies are being used in real-world manufacturing and product development.

"It's very important that we have these collaborations, because it means we can get the technologies from both groups and build them up together and exploit them," Richard O'Kennedy, professor of biotechnology and vice president for Learning Innovation at Dublin City University in Ireland.

"There's a lot of complementarity between the technologies that we have, and by combining them there are much better opportunities to get products, develop companies and attract companies into this field. That is what this is about, pretty much."
UMass Lowell math and science professor Ann Marie Hurley, who is also a co-chair of the Irish Partnerships Committee, said the university has entered a formal collaboration with Queen's University and is looking to formalize an agreement with Dublin City University for collaborative research.

"We're looking to expand our science and engineering base into the area of health and humanities," Hurley said. "That is the focus of emerging technology." Several UML students spent part of the summer at Queen's University and Hurley said the university is hoping that in the future, students can spend an entire semester at QU or DCU.

"We'd like to expand that and have an exchange program for faculty members as well," Hurley said, adding that her hope is to make the conference a yearly event. "Perhaps next year it can take place in Ireland."

Those attending the conference heard lectures and sat in on workshops with such topics as Better Enzymes for Business and Covalent Aggregation of Protein Therapeutics.

Carl Lawton, director of the UMass Lowell Biomanufacturing Center, addressed the critical issues in the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals.

"For years, a lot of the equipment that is used in the potato-chip industry was more sophisticated than what many people were using in the biopharmaceutical field," Lawton said. "Fortunately, a lot of that is changing. The conference continues today at 8:30 a.m. with a discussion on sensors for chemical and biological threats.