Archive for November, 2012

GRA Eminent Scholar Eberhard Voit will play key role in two new grants

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.

November 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

GHSU Cancer Center now offers 24-hour human genome sequencing

The Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Center is now the only cancer research center in the state that can sequence the entire human genome in 24 hours for about $6,000—thanks to an upgrade in technology that researchers believe will allow them to develop more targeted therapies for cancer. Until very recently, the cost was more than $20,000 to sequence an individual genome.

“Nationally, since 2001, scientists have been working toward sequencing the human genome within 24 hours and for under $1,000, and we are now approaching that,” said Lesleyann Hawthorn, a geneticist and Director of Shared Resources at the GHSU Cancer Center,noting that the first draft of the human genome took 13 years and $3 billion to sequence.  “As a result, our researchers are now able to work more effectively in identifying specific mutations in hard-to-treat tumors, to help us develop treatments targeted to that particular person and tumor type.”

All upgrades and new instrumentation were supported through a $2 million grant from the Georgia Research Alliance.

Personalized medicine is one of many focus areas of the GHSU Cancer Center as it advances its goal of National Cancer Institute designation, said. “New technologies such as this create a synergy, attracting high-level researchers and new grants that enable us to move closer to developing better tools for personalized medicine,” said Dr. Samir N. Khleif, Director of the GHSU Cancer Center.  “That is our ultimate goal—to provide effective, personalized therapies that will fight cancer while allowing patients to continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle.”

November 12, 2012 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

GRA’s new TV program “The Future Files” premiers Nov 13 on GPB

The threat of influenza – and the inventive work of Georgia scientists to stop it – are the focus of a pilot episode of a new TV series the Georgia Research Alliance is developing in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Titled “The Future Files,” the series premieres Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. on all GPB stations across the state. It showcases how top researchers at Georgia universities are addressing some of the most challenging problems facing humankin

“The work taking place in Georgia’s university laboratories is exceptional and often fascinating,” says C. Mike Cassidy, GRA’s president. “We have some of the brightest minds in the world here, but not everyone is aware of that. What these scientists are doing to discover and invent new answers to human needs is a story that needs to be told.”

The pilot episode of “The Future Files” traces the insidiousness of the flu virus – how it mutates and kills – then spotlights the progress Georgia scientists have made in battling the disease. Series host Faith Salie, a correspondent on “CBS Sunday Morning,” explores efforts to develop a single vaccine to fight multiple forms of flu; new instruments to detect the presence of flu in mere seconds; and a novel way to administer vaccines painlessly.  View trailer here>

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and The Coca-Cola Foundation are providing financial support for the project. Other episodes planned for the series focus on autism, cancer, new energy and regenerative medicine.

“The Future Files: Inventing Tomorrow in Georgia Today”
On Georgia Public Broadcasting

Air Dates for Episode 1: “Pandemic Threat”

November 13 – 8 p.m.
November 14 – 10 p.m.
November 15 – 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
November 18 – 1:30 p.m

November 12, 2012 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Clearside Biomedical announces successful safety and tolerability clinical study

Clearside Biomedical, a GRA VentureLab company, has announced successful results of a safety and tolerability clinical study using its proprietary ocular microinjection platform to deliver therapeutics precisely within the eye to treat diseases that affect the back of the eye, including age-related macular degeneration.

“In my opinion, this study is pivotal for the company since it demonstrated that the suprachoroidal microinjection procedure was well-tolerated by the patients,” said Dr. Peter K. Kaiser, professor of ophthalmology and retinal specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.  “It was done with only topical anesthesia, making this a viable procedure to deliver medications to the retina and choroid.”

Clearside got its start through a series of GRA VentureLab grants; its microinjection technology is based on a collaboration of researchers at Emory University and Georgia Tech.  In January 2012, the company garnered $4 million in venture capital investment from Hatteras Venture Partners, the GRA Venture Fund and the Kenan Flagler Venture Fund.   Read more here>

November 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

Two GRA Eminent Scholars ranked among world’s Top 100 chemists and materials scientists

GRA Eminent Scholars Younan Xia and Jean-Luc Bredas have been recognized by Thomson Reuters Science Watch as part of their Top 100 lists of chemists and materials scientists for the 2000-2010 decade.

Xia, professor of chemistry with a joint appointment in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, is ranked No. 4 on the Top 100 materials scientists list and No. 35 on the Top 100 chemists list.  Bredas, professor and co-director of the Center for Computational Molecular Science at Georgia Tech, is listed as No. 84 on materials scientists list.

Thomson Reuters Science Watch tracks trends and performance in research; its Top 100 lists are based on the number of researchers’ publications and citations and their impact.    Read more here>

November 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

$20 million grant awarded to improve organ transplant outcomes

A team of Emory University physician/researchers has been awarded a $20 million grant to develop better treatments for organ transplant recipients that help avoid both organ rejection and drug toxicity.

“Despite tremendous advances in immune drug therapy, the fact remains that organ recipients still must take immunosuppressant drugs over their lifetime,” said Chris Larsen, MD, PhD, executive director of the Emory Transplant Center and principal investigator of the new grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.  “Improvements in these transplant drugs is still a critical need”

GRA Eminent Scholar Allan Kirk, scientific director for the transplant center and a project leader for the grant, commented, “The most important feature of the award is its support for multiple investigators attacking the problems of immunosuppression from different complementary angles.  The team science approach is the best way to get results to our patients.”    Read more here>

November 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment