ARA organized a consortium of scientists at the five research universities in Arkansas, under two FDA contracts, to significantly advance the ability to understand the potential environmental, health, and safety effects of graphene, and are expanding this technique more generally to carbon-based nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes. The rapidly growing applications of nanotechnology products demand urgent development of more sensitive, rapid, and accurate methods for evaluation of nano-product safety and toxicity minimization.

Most manufacturers are largely unaware of the level of graphene impurity, but have slated it for use in everything from consumer electronics (smart phone cases that can instantly change color) and wearable medical technology (e.g. patches that measure blood sugar levels in diabetics) to industrial processes (e.g. manufacture of solar cells that convert rain water to electricity and plastics processing and equipment manufacturing for food packaging, agriculture, building, aerospace, and automotive industries).

In order to work with this difficult molecule and to obtain desired function, users often alter its structure through processes of oxidation. In the process of working with this difficult set of molecules, researchers discovered new ways to detect the presence and toxicity of graphene in its many states and within cells. This information is becoming increasingly important to industry, but equally important to the FDA as they build and adopt new tools and techniques for regulatory decision making.


Through a very strong bioinformatics capability in Arkansas, resources from across the state have been assembled to conduct a co-clinical trial on treating lung cancer using a precision medicine approach with a blood biopsy to detect circulating tumor DNA. The results are important in providing FDA with information needed to respond to clinical trial data, assess liquid (plasma) biopsies, and understand more about treatment modalities for lung cancer. Arkansas has taken an early leadership position in the scientific and methodological advancements in liquid biopsies to further the development of lung cancer-based precision medicine.