Archive for June, 2012

New mumps vaccine being developed

With the support of  $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, GRA Distinguished Investigator Biao He at the University of Georgia is using genetic engineering techniques to develop a new mumps vaccine. 

Once considered virtually eradicated in the U.S., mumps outbreaks in 2006 and 2010 in the Midwest and Northeast involving thousands of case caused researchers to reassess the effectiveness of the vaccine in use since 1967.  That vaccine was based on genotype A of the mumps virus; the 2006 and 2010 cases were caused by another strain, genotype G.  He plans to replace former labor-intensive vaccine development techniques that had a lengthy development cycle with modern genetic engineering approaches, which produce safe and effective vaccines more quickly. Read more>

June 29, 2012 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

GRA VentureLab company secures DOD funding

SpherIngenics, a GRA VentureLab company, has been awarded $730,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense to refine its microbead technology as a safe, efficient and repeatable cell therapy system.  Developed in the labs of Georgia Tech, the technology is aimed at helping therapeutic cells survive the hostile environment they encounter when injected into the body and perform needed repairs of damaged tissue.

According to GRA Eminent Scholar and company CSO Barbara Boyan, the new funding will be focused on examining whether delivering microbeads full of stem cells can enhance cartilage repair and regeneration of craniofacial defects in an animal model.  Read more>

June 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm Leave a comment

Axion BioSystems CTO honored

Jim Ross, CTO of Axion BioSystems, a GRA VentureLab company, has received the Business Person of the Year 2012 Innovation Award from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. 

In 2008, Ross, a biomedical engineer, and Tom O’Brien, an experienced entrepreneur, teamed up to develop microarray technology that could stimulate and record responses of living cells simultaneously.  Early funding from GRA’s VentureLab and the National Institutes of Health helped to refine the technology for the research, clinical and drug discovery markets and to form Axion BioSystems.  Today, the company has more than 20 employees and has attracted some $6 million in private funding.

June 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm Leave a comment

Bennetzen leads team mapping foxtail millet genome

A collaboration of 38 scientists at 8 universities, led by GRA Eminent Scholar Jeff Bennetzen at the University of Georgia, has uncovered and mapped the genetic sequence of foxtail millet.  The research provides a powerful new tool for increasing biofuel and crop yields. 

According to Bennetzen, the sequence and map will help to guide scientists to genes that influence traits like disease resistance, drought tolerance and cell wall composition. “Once those genes are identified, breeders can develop crops the require less water or pesticides, for example, or develop plants that can be easily converted to biofuels,” Bennetzen said.

The team also sequenced green foxtail, a relative of foxtail millet.  Commenting on this process, Bennetzen said that green foxtail is not only an excellent model for switchgrass but also may serve as a model for all grasses, the source of over half of the world’s food.

The project is part of the U.S. Department of Energy BioEnergy Science Center; the Georgia Research Alliance provided matching funds to help to make UGA, in collaboration with Georgia Tech, the BESC academic leader.  Read more>

June 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

Georgia Tech researchers examine building blocks of life 3 billion years ago

With funding from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, a team of Georgia Tech researchers have reported new evidence that iron did the chemical work now done by magnesium in helping RNA fold and function properly.  RNA is one of four macromolecules essential to all forms of life.  Led by Loren Williams, the researchers used quantum mechanical calculations, chemical footprinting and ribozyme assays to determine that RNA’s shape and folding structure remained the same and its functional activity increased when magnesium was replaced by iron in an oxygen-free environment like the one that existed on earth 3 billion years ago.  According to Williams, “Our hypothesis is the RNA evolved in the presence of iron and is optimized to work with iron.”

GRA Eminent Scholar Steve Harvey was part of the research team; in addition, GRA’s investments in the biosciences infrastructure at Georgia Tech have helped GT scientists successfully compete for millions of dollars in federally funded research projects.

June 1, 2012 at 11:02 am Leave a comment