Archive for June, 2013

GPB and GRA Win Four Southeast EMMY® Awards for “The Future Files”

The Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) are pleased to announce that they have received industry recognition for their pilot program, “The Future Files – Inventing Tomorrow in Georgia Today.” Showcasing how top researchers at Georgia universities are addressing some of the most challenging problems facing humankind, “The Future Files” pilot first aired in November 2012 highlighting the progress that Georgia scientists have made in battling influenza.

Click here to see the press release.

“The Future Files” is now streaming at gpb.org. Watch it now >

Future Files Logo FINAL

June 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

GRA’s VentureLab Brings Ten Years of Learning and a New Direction

After ten years since its formation, GRA’s VentureLab has shown success and opportunities to enhance its program.  Recently discussed at the June 3 board meeting, GRA plans to release some new developments for its commercialization program.

Audit: Public-Private VC has good record
June 7, 2013
Atlanta Business Chronicle Print Edition
Maria Saporta, Contributing Writer

After launching its venture capital effort — VentureLab — a decade ago, the Georgia Research Alliance and the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts have concluded that the track record is quite good.

About 71 percent of the companies that have participated in GRA’s VentureLab since 2002 are still doing business in Georgia, while 29 percent are inactive. The survival rate of 133 VentureLab companies compares favorably to the survival rate of startup companies nationally, according to the Georgia Department of Audits.

As of September 2012, 87 percent of VentureLab companies survived to a second year compared with 67 percent … Read full Atlanta Business Chronicle article>

June 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

First U.S. human exposome center grant awarded

Researchers at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and collaborators at Georgia Tech have been awarded a $4 million grant to establish the Health and Exposome Research Center: Understanding Lifetime Exposure (HERCULES Center) at Emory University.  The four-year grant is the first of it kind awarded in the United States.

The exposome — a relatively new concept — incorporates all of the exposures encountered by humans.  Suggested as the environmental equivalent of the human genome, the exposome includes lifetime exposures to environmental pollutants in food, water, physical activity, medications, homes and daily stressors.  GRA Eminent Scholar Eberhard Voit at Georgia Tech will head the Systems Biology Core of the HERCULES Center.  A key component of the project, the Systems Biology Core will provide expertise in computational approaches used to analyze and integrate the large data sets that exposome research produces.  Read more here>

June 4, 2013 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Controlling gene expression levels reverses schizophrenia symptoms

Using genetically engineered mice, GRA Eminent Scholar Lin Mei and colleagues at Georgia Regents University (GRU) found that overexpression of a gene associated with schizophrenia causes classic symptoms of the disorder that are reversed when the gene expression returns to normal.

With elevated levels of the gene neuregulin-1, the mice exhibited schizophrenia-like behavior, becoming hyperactive, unable to remember what they had just learned or to ignore distracting background noise.  “This shows that high levels of neuregulin-1 are a cause of schizophrenia, at least in mice, because when you turn them down, the behavior deficit disappears,” said Mei, who directs the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at the Medical College of Georgia at GRU.

Neuregulin-1, essential for heart development as well as formation of myelin (the insulation around nerves), is among approximately 100 schizophrenia-related genes.  Read more here>

June 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

2nd annual clinical research conference to be held December 4

The Georgia Research Alliance, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute, Georgia Bio and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia have joined forces to present the second annual Clinical Research in Georgia Conference.  To be held December 4, 2013, at the Academy of Medicine in Atlanta, the conference will spotlight innovations that can make clinical trials faster, more efficient and more compliant.  The event will also showcase Georgia assets that facilitate effective clinical research initiatives, including:

  • diverse research participant populations
  • an array of clinical trials expertise and experience
  • access to public/private research facilities
  • collaboration with skilled project teams

For detailed conference information, see www.georgiaclinicaltrials.com .

June 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

IL-21 signals key to long-lasting antibody responses

A team of researchers at the Emory Vaccine Center have shown that IL-21, an immune regulatory molecule, is essential for long-lasting antibody response against viral infections.  According to the study’s authors, the findings highlight how IL-21 could be important in the development of antiviral vaccines, potentially designing future vaccines to incorporate IL-21 directly or to use the ability to stimulate IL-21 as a gauge of vaccine activity.

For the study, mice engineered to lack the gene for the IL-21 receptor were exposed to three different viral infections.  The scientists found that, when infected with the three viruses separately, the mice started to produce antibodies, but the antibody levels faded over time.

Since 1996, the Georgia Research Alliance has invested in the development and work of the Emory Vaccine Center, which  supports five GRA Eminent Scholars, including Rafi Ahmed, its founding director.   Read more here>

June 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

Study concludes drug side effects inevitable

Studying a set of computer-generated/artificial proteins and comparing them to natural proteins, GRA Eminent Scholar Jeff Skolnik and collaborator Mu Gao at Georgia Tech have found that there may be no more than about 500 unique protein pocket configurations that serve as binding sites for small molecule pharmaceutical compounds.  Their conclusion:  drug side  effects may be impossible to avoid since the likelihood that a molecule intended for one protein (the drug’s target) will also bind with an unintended target is significant.

“Our study provides a rationalization for why a lot of drugs have significant side effects,” Skolnik, who directs the Georgia Tech Center for the Study of Systems Biology, said.  “The idea that a small molecule [drug] could have just one protein target is not supported.”

The researchers also examined the role of physics vs. evolution on protein binding activity.  “The basic physics of the system provides the mechanism for molecules to bind to proteins,” Skolnik said.  “You don’t need evolution to have a system that works on at least at a low level.  This has a lot of implications for the biochemical component of the origins of life.”    Read more here>

June 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment


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