Eric C. Carnes, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health
University of Nebraska Medical Center
College of Public Health

Professional Summary


Research Interests

My research focuses extensively on interdisciplinary research projects aimed at combining inorganic nanomaterials with biological materials and living cells to create novel solutions to problems in public health, agriculture, and the environment. My original work centered on the development of artificial matrices to enhance cell viability for use in biosensors for low-resource environments, which was well received has led to a consistent publication record in high-impact journals. This has generated considerable IP as well as funded proposals which seek to create new materials for a wide variety of cell-based devices for applications ranging from extreme-environment sensing and energy production to investigations of cell signaling pathways and collective cellular behavior. Originating from these initial materials, my research has branched out in several directions. One thrust has been to use living cells to create novel hierarchical multiscale materials by combining self- assembly and lithography with lipids, ion channels, surface receptors, and nanoparticles for biological and materials applications. Such materials could also be used to develop a fundamental understanding of their assembly as well as the unique properties of the materials as more than the sum of their parts. Another thrust has been to use hybrid biomaterials to create artificial microenvironments that enable the study of clinical observable pathologies that are seemingly impossible to duplicate under laboratory conditions. These systems have been used to study pathogenesis, virulence, and latency in various drug-resistant microbes as well as tuberculosis and cancer. Harnessing the capabilities of these engineered environments could allow for further unveiling of the intricate mechanisms involved in cellular metabolism, facilitating greater control over these systems for improved diagnosis and treatment strategies for infectious disease. An additional use of these materials has been in the development of products designed to extend shelf life and usability for biological products, such ultra-stable vaccines against various pathogens that can be stored and room temperature and disseminated around the globe. Most recently, I have begun extending my knowledge of these biotic/abiotic systems to create organic and inorganic nanoparticles and microparticles for use in targeted delivery of cancer therapeutics and medical countermeasures for applications in public health and chemical/biological defense with funding from NIH and DoD. These particles have been designed to provide a flexible platform that could be quickly and easily adapted for rapid deployment in response to a wide variety of emerging infectious disease diagnosis and treatment applications. As testament to the viability of these systems, technology transfer efforts to stand-up a company responsible for scale-up and manufacture of these technologies have recently resulted in a new company based in Lincoln, Nebraska. The first contract for the company with DoD is expected in summer 2020.

Selected Publications

Professional Affiliations