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National Science Foundation

NSF 07-43, Benchmarks of NSF Innovation

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Newly discovered viruses isolated from microorganisms living in boiling acid pools in Yellowstone National Park are serving as raw materials for amazingly diverse new products, from nanoelectronics to drug delivery systems for cancer treatment.

With NSF support, researchers at Montana State University isolated these viruses and studied their practically indestructible protein shells, or "cages." The researchers have now artificially replicated the cages for new applications in nanotechnology. The team has used the cages as bases for new platinum catalysts to efficiently produce hydrogen and made advanced magnetic materials for use in memory devices now in development with Panasonic.

The researchers also established SpeciGen, a biotech company, which has exclusive rights to the patented protein cage technology. The company is developing targeted drug delivery and imaging agents, and reports that it has more than $11 million of

illustration of a virus structure


The structure of a virus from a boiling acid pool in Yellowstone National Park. The virus protein coat is practically indestructible and is finding many uses.

Credit: Mark Young, Montana State University.

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