Posts filed under ‘GRA Eminent Scholars’
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.
As reported in a number of scientific journals, GRA Eminent Scholar David Sholl and Georgia Tech colleague Christopher Jones project that extracting carbon dioxide directly from air is both economically and chemically feasible. According to one study, the researchers expect that a CO2 removal unit the size of an ocean shipping container could extract about 1,000 tons of gas per year with operating costs of about $100 per ton.
“Even if we removed CO2 from all the [power and chemical plant] flue gas, we’d still get only a portion of the carbon dioxide emitted earch year,” Sholl said. “If we want to make deep cuts in emissions, we’ll have to do more — and air capture is one option for doing that.” Jones added that carbon dioxide from large sources such as coal-burning power plants accounts for less than half of the worldwide emissions of the gas, with much of the remaining emissions coming from mobile sources like cars, buses, planes and ships.
Sholl and Jones also reported on advances in adsorbent materials for selectively capturing carbon dioxide. The carbon recapture technique and new materials might initially be used to supply carbon dioxide for industrial use, including fuel production from algae or enhanced oil recovery. “As the technology matures,” Jones said, “we envision implementing CO2 capture from the air as a climate stabilization strategy, in parallel with CO2 capture from flue gas and enhanced utilization of alternative energies.” Read more here>
With a $9 million, five-year grant, the National Institutes of Health has renewed Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research as an NIH CFAR, one of 21 located throughout the United States. This is the third competitive renewal grant since the Emory CFAR earned NIH designation in 1998. The grant will expand AIDS research at Emory through the provision of equipment, services, expertise, training and materials.
GRA Eminent Scholar Eric Hunter, PhD.; James W. Curran, MD, MPH; and Carlos del Rio, MD, are co-directors of the Emory CFAR. Read more here>
GRA Eminent Scholar Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, will lead Emory’s project in an intensive national effort to develop a vaccine against HIV and AIDS. As a part of the national Centers for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID), Emory University will receive $7 million in funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
“Despite the development of lifesaving drugs, the HIV/AIDS epidemic still remains a tremendous challenge, with 34 million infected individuals throughout the world. Our greatest hope for stopping this disease remains an effective vaccine,” Ahmed said. “The intensive approach of CHAVI-ID will give us an excellent chance of accomplishing this.” Ahmed’s collaborators at Emory are Bali Pulendran, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and GRA Eminent Scholar Guido Silvestri, chief of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes Primate Research Center. Read more>
GRA Eminent Scholar Lin Mei and colleagues at Georgia Health Sciences University have taken another step forward in their studies to determine the complex communication between motor neurons and muscle cells. The scientists’ recent finding is that communication between brain and muscle requires that both have the protein LRP4 present. “That’s against the dogma,” Mei said. When the researchers eliminated the protein only from muscle cells in mice, a weak connection with the brain still formed, and the mice survived for several days.
In addition to explaining nerve-muscle communication better, the scientists hope that their findings will eventually enable gene therapy that delivers LRP4 to bolster insufficient levels in patients with disabling disorders such as myasthenia gravis and other forms of muscular dystrophy. Read more>