Posts filed under ‘GRA Eminent Scholars’
GRA Eminent Scholar Eberhard Voit’s skill for bringing together science, computing and engineering to make sense of the vast amounts of data biological research generates will play a key role in investigations of two quite different areas.
The Georgia Tech scientist is part of the newly created Malaria Host-Pathogen Interaction Center (MaHPIC), a consortium of Emory University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Funded through a $19.4 million contract with the National Institutes of Health, MaHPIC will use the comprehensive approach of systems biology — Voit’s research field — to study and catalog in molecular detail how malaria parasites interact with their human and animal hosts. This knowledge is fundamental to developing and evaluating new diagnostic tools, antimalarial drugs and vaccines for different types of malaria.
According to Voit, who is co-founder of Georgia Tech’s Integrative Biosystems Institute, “The sheer amount of detailed, high-quality information amassed by the experimental groups [of MaHPIC] will be unprecendented. With this project we have an incredible opportunity to integrate data with modern computational tools of dynamic modeling. This integration will allow us to analyze the complex networks of interactions between hosts and parasites in a manner never tried before. Systems biology will be the foundation for this integration.” Read more about the MaHPIC here>
Voit is also one of three Georgia Tech scientists collaborating in a study of how complex microbial systems use their genetic diversity to respond to human-induced change. The work, supported through a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is important because these microbial communities play critical roles in the environment – breaking down pollutants, recycling nutrients and serving as major sources of nitrogen and carbon. The work will focus initially on microbial populations in man-made lakes located along the Chattahoochee River. “We have to make sense of pieces of DNA from perhaps thousands of organisms,” said Kostas Konstantinidis, the project’s director. “This is where biology, computing and engineering are merging to find clever ways to accomplish such tasks.” Read more here.
Governor Nathan Deal praised the power of partnerships in announcing that the National Institutes of Health has awarded $8.3 million to Emory University as initial funding for the Autism Center of Excellence (ACE). The Center, one of only three in the nation, is a collaboration of Emory University, the Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory. Other collaborators include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia Tech.
GRA Eminent Scholar Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Center, will lead the ACE in its research, which will focus on early diagnosis and treatment of autism and related disorders. “It’s a unique community of scientists, but it’s also truly a city-wide commitment to tackle this public health issue in an unprecedented, concerted fashion,” Klin said. “What really makes this effort so different is the fact that all these institutions have come together to face this enormous challenge.”
Mike Cassidy, president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance said, “What Ami and his team are about is transformational. They are embracing what Ami calls ‘the science of clinical care.’ With Ami’s new view on science, coupled with the support of Bernie and Billi Marcus, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University, the Woodruff Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the state of Georgia, and many others, the Marcus Center is now poised to create a brighter future for children and their families.”
The Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University has been awarded a five-year, $5.8 million renewal by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities. GRA Eminent Scholar Shafiq Khan is the center’s executive director. According to Khan, the award will allow the center to move closer to breakthroughs in prostate cancer and advance their efforts to create a culture of awareness and prevention, particularly in the African-American community. Read more here>
Writer: James Hataway
Athens. Ga. – University of Georgia researchers have employed specially designed nanomaterials to develop a new, label-free DNA detection method that promises to reduce the cost and complexity of common genetic tests.
Their discovery may be used to help clinicians diagnose certain cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. It can detect the presence of viruses in tissue. And it can be used for a variety of forensic applications, such as paternity testing or crime scene DNA analysis.
Led by Yiping Zhao, professor of physics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the university’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, and Ralph Tripp, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, the researchers proved the efficacy of their new DNA analysis method by experimenting with short strands of RNA called microRNA. While their approach may be used on all forms of DNA and RNA, researchers focused on microRNA because it holds great promise as a target for future therapeutics. More here>
Dr. Younan Xia, GRA Eminent Scholar in Nanomedicine at Georgia Tech, has been selected as the recipient of the 2013 American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials. Sponsored by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., the award recognizes technologically-important research in the chemistry of materials. At Georgia Tech, Xia recently developed a simple method for depositing cells on a scaffold to generate a gradient pattern. “Such cell/scaffold constructs,” Xia says, “are important for applications in regenerative medicine, including repair of the rotator cuff, where the tendon-to-bone insertion is actually a graded junction structure.”
GRA Eminent Scholar Bill Dynan, a leading molecular biologist, has joined the Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute. As a Professor of Radiation Oncology and Biochemistry, Dynan will continue to focus his work on repairing double-strand breaks that occur in DNA from ionizing radiation, which has applications in cancer treatment and gene correction for sickle cell disease.
Dynan, who comes to Emory from Georgia Health Sciences University, has also been working with scientists at Emory on NASA-funded research to explore whether specific radiation encountered among space and high-altitude air travelers — including frequent flyers — increases their cancer risk. Read more here>
C. Ross Ethier has been named the new Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering in the Georgia Tech and Emory University Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Internationally known for his work in the area of biomechanics and mechanobiology, he is considered one of the world’s leading researchers in glaucoma, arterial disease and osteoarthritis.
Ethier comes to Georgia from Imperial College London, where he was Professor and Head of the Department of Bioengineering. His glaucoma research has the potential to create new approaches to treating the disease, the second most common cause of blindness.
“Dr. Ethier’s strengths in applying his expertise in biomechanics to the understanding of glaucoma, arterial disease and osteoarthritis are world-class,” said Michael Cassidy, GRA’s president and CEO. “We anticipate that his work will lead to new treatments for these conditions that affect so many worldwide.” Read more here>
It is rare for researchers to be able to present their work-in-progress to the leader of the foundation that is supporting it. It is rarer still when that leader is Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
But that is just what the Georgia Research Alliance was able to arrange recently, bringing together Gates and GRA Eminent Scholar Steve Stice and his research team.
Armed with a $1.6 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, University of Georgia colleagues Stice, Franklin West, Yangqing Lu and Poultry Science faculty are collaborating with Claudio Afonso of the USDA Agricultural Research Service Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory to create disease resistant poultry. Using a new technology – called cellular adaptive resistance (CAR) – that Stice and West developed, the initial focus is on breeding chickens resistant to Newcastle virus. According to Stice, the potential of the technology extends beyond poultry to other livestock. “We want to provide a new way to create animals with natural resistance to specific diseases,” Stice said. “Disease and death in livestock are serious problems, particularly in underdeveloped countries.”
In the meeting with Gates, who was in Atlanta to address the Education Commission of the States, Stice presented the progress of the researchers to date and described the long-range potential of the research for improving livestock health and creating improved breeding stock, an area in which the Gates Foundation is hoping to spur transformational changes. The economic impact of such improvements, particularly in targeted areas of Africa and India, is estimated to exceed billions of dollars annually.
Wanting to add a bit of pizazz to his slide presentation, in advance of the meeting in an Atlanta hotel, Stice, West and Lu set up a microscope to provide a live demonstration of the actual insertion of stem cells into an avian embryo. Following Stice’s briefing, Gates peppered the researchers with questions about Newcastle Disease Virus and its spread, stem cells, the CAR technology, and a wide range of other aspects of the project.
It was gratifying to discuss our project with Bill Gates. The entire UGA team is highly motivated to advance our science because it offers a possible solution to a dire animal health problem that impacts Africa’s poorer farmers, many of whom are women,” commented Stice.
The Georgia Research Alliance has invested in Stice’s research since his recruitment as a GRA Eminent Scholar in 1998, including the recent acquisition of laboratory equipment key to project with the Gates foundation. Through its VentureLab program, GRA is also working with Stice and the biotechnology company he founded to explore the development of the several technologies for use by the livestock producers.
Dr. Stice’s dedication to improving animal and human health and his ability to help to move his research from the laboratory to industry use are extraordinary,” said GRA President Mike Cassidy. “His work in developing Newcastle Disease-resistant chickens has vast potential impact not only in developing nations but close to home for the poultry industry so vital to Georgia’s economy.
GRA Eminent Max Stachura, director of the Georgia Health Sciences University Center for Telehealth, is collaborating with U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center and the Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center (DDEAMC) at Ft. Gordon, GA in evaluating new wireless urine and temperature management systems developed by Future Path Medical Holding Company.
According to Major Christopher Colombo, medical director of the ICU at DDEMAC, the care of soldiers [with spinal cord injuries and other wounds] is complicated and requires the development and implementation of new technologies for ongoing health maintenance.
“The opportunity for enhanced care of our soldiers with new and innovative technology such as Future Path’s systems is critical to explore and document,” Stachura said. “The study will provide data and experience applicable to the civilian health care sector as well.” Read more here>
GRA Eminent Scholar Chung-Jui (C.J.) Tsai at the University of Georgia focuses her research on how plants function. A recent $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is aimed at furthering her understanding of how the plant protein tubulin affects the development of Populus, a genus of woody plant that includes poplar, aspen and cottonwood trees. Tsai expects to build on recent research findings that tubulin proteins regulate wood development and plant water use.
“We are interested in traits that influence biofuel production, and the number one trait is biomass volume,” Tsai said. “So wood formation is something we are very interested in.” Tsai thinks, however, that tubulin manipulation will more likely affect cell wall properties, leading to greater ease in biomass deconstruction and in the processing of poplar tress into products like ethanol.
Tsai also hopes to explore tubulin’s role in plant water use, with the goal of making trees more drought resistant. “This could translate into more biomass from trees grown in stressful environments, like the persistent drought many parts of the country are experiencing,” she said.