Big research gains sometimes come in teeny-tiny packages. And that's something the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative is banking on as it welcomes two new recruits to the University of Utah faculty.

The researchers — Marc Porter from Arizona State University and Hamid Ghandehari of the University of Maryland — are well-established and respected innovators in the field of nanotechnology. Ghandehari, who founded one of the first multidisciplinary nanomedicine centers in the country, focuses on targeted delivery of bioactive agents to solid cancerous tumors. Porter, who's bringing an established nano-tech company with him and who holds 10 patents already, specializes in biosensors, again aimed at disease early detection and treatment.

USTAR is the 2006 Legislature's baby. With SB75 it created the initiative to fund strategic investments at the U. and Utah State University, which are collaborating on the belief that both technology and the tiny molecular level at which nanotechnology works will bring gigantic economic benefit to the two institutions and the state's economy.

Lawmakers provided funding for recruiting world-class researchers and building interdisciplinary research and development facilities at the two schools. USTAR also includes outreach that brings other Utah universities and colleges into the collaboration.

The goal is to create great research, then see it through to commercial products that will benefit both the institutions and state economically, while providing needed products and services in various fields, including medicine.

Richard Brown, dean of the U. College of Engineering, said he believes that Porter's and Ghandehari's research "will lead to better prevention and treatment of diseases." He pointed out that both men thrive with multidisciplinary teams, and that they cross departmental boundaries, both in their appointments and in their research.

Porter will split his time with chemistry and chemical engineering. Ghandehari's work crosses pharmacy, pharmaceutical chemistry and bioengineering boundaries. Both bring not only their reputations and expertise, but also existing research grants and programs with them.

Ted McAleer, executive director of USTAR, said the duo are the 10th and 11th researchers successfully recruited to either USU or the U. since USTAR began. The initiative also includes upcoming construction of new state-of-the-art facilities on both campuses.

The two were formally introduced to media during the Utah Nanotechnology Conference at the U. Friday.