Posts Tagged ‘science funding’

Raising Scientific Funds the Amazon Way

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-13-2011

There was an interesting story in the NY Times the other day which was picked by GenomeWeb’s The Daily Scan regarding a couple of biologists who have turned to non-traditional sources of funding to partially fund their research experiments.

The scientific duo from the Robert J. Bernard Biological Field Station in Claremont, Calif, have raised close to $5,000 from online sales of t-shirts and trading cards which will pay for their lab equipment and travel expenses required to conduct their studies in Mexico. While this level of funding certainly would not be sufficient for even the smallest molecular biology lab, their funding methodology is unique and I believe that they should be commended for their resourcefulness.

As we have mentioned in the past, non-peer reviewed fundraising is not entirely new to the biological research community. In a post written several months ago, we told you how the Kanzius foundation is on its way to raising $250,000 through a Facebook campaign. We also told you about the Search for Research campaign promoted on BenchFly which helps raise money for research using a search engine advertizing strategy.

We all hate writing grants and although non-traditional fundraising efforts will not replace traditional sources of funding any time soon, it is still fun to hear about the different activities people are willing to try in order to fund their research.

What “out of the box” fundraising efforts have you come across?

Boosting Biotech in Upstate New York

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-11-2011

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—January 11, 2011—During stops in Buffalo,
Rochester and Syracuse yesterday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
announced a new proposal to make the Research and Development Tax
Credit permanent—a move that would greatly boost jobs and business
growth for Upstate New York bioscience and medical technology
companies. According to Sen. Gillibrand, making the tax credit
permanent would increase private investments and provide stability
and certainty to innovative businesses and institutions. “This is
the kind of idea that can move us forward in creating a stronger
economy and creating the jobs that are so desperately needed,”
Gillibrand said. The senator’s proposal would: > Expand the
current credit by changing the formula to provide greater incentive
for companies to increase investment > Simplify the current
credit, which is highly complicated and confusing. > Make the
new credit permanent, which would provide private companies with
the confidence they need to make significant future investments in
R&D. “R&D is vital for the Bio/Med industry in Upstate New
York,” said Heather Erikson, president of MedTech and co-chair of
the State Medical Technology Alliance. “Supporting more competitive
incentives and investments in these areas, on both a state and
national level, will contribute to our industry’s ability to
develop major scientific and medical breakthroughs that fuel
business growth, create new employment opportunities, and promote
economic vitality.” The bioscience and medical technology industry
relies heavily on higher-paying, knowledge-based jobs. It is one of
the most stable industries in New York State paying employees an
average salary of $70,200 compared to the state’s overall average
wage of $60,400, according to the most recent data from the Empire
State Development Corporation. There are more than 200 Bio/Med
companies located in Upstate New York, 70% of which are
headquartered here. For more information about the Upstate Bio/Med
industry, visit ABOUT MEDTECH MedTech is an active
association of pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical technology
companies, their suppliers and service providers, and research
universities. We boost the growth and prosperity of our members by
connecting them for collaboration, offering educational programs,
sharing news and information, and advocating for the industry with
government and leaders. Our mission is to develop the
relationships, tools and programs that enable Upstate New York
companies to bring tomorrow’s medical solutions to the healthcare
marketplace. For more information, visit

NIH awards $6.4 million to Case Western Reserve School of Medicine researchers

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-08-2010

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine faculty members are reaping the rewards of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the form of grants and contracts. The funding totals more than $6.4 million for four different research endeavors.

Researchers Mark Chance, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics, director of the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics, and interim chair of the Department of Genetics, and W. Henry Boom, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Tuberculosis Research Unit, are working to tackle the easily transmissible, and often deadly, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). They received a grant for more than $750,000 from the NIH, with the potential to receive up to $2.8 million over the next four years. The researchers are bringing together a multidisciplinary team of experts in proteomics, genetic epidemiology and cytokine biology to study a population within the spectrum of MTB exposure, infection, and disease in the United States, Uganda, and South Africa, in order to apply novel systems biology approaches to latent infection of the disease.

Recent studies suggest that proteomic approaches aimed at identifying protein-protein interaction networks result in the identification of functional sub-networks with a role in disease pathogenesis. The School of Medicine-led team will apply this approach to the analysis of latent MTB infection in humans and link proteomic results with parallel studies using human genetic and systemic chemo-/cytokine approaches to understanding the disease’s pathogenesis.

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center was awarded a new $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to evaluate the introduction and expression of the modified MGMT gene in hematopoietic stem cells in an effort to improve efficacy of chemotherapy for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive type of primary brain tumor in humans. The current treatment therapy is hampered by the dose-limiting bone marrow toxicity. This Phase I clinical trial will enable bone marrow to repair DNA alkylation, which is produced by concurrent radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy, by allowing patients to tolerate higher doses of chemotherapy.

This trial will build on the more than two decades of research by Stanton Gerson MD, principal investigator of the study, the Asa and Patricia Shiverick-Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology, and director of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. He discovered that MGMT gene mutations may protect bone marrow from the drug’s toxicity, and in addition, introduction of these mutations can protect viral-transduced cell lines and primary hematopoietic progenitors from chemotherapy-associated toxicity. This trial will be the first-in-man study of in-vivo stem cells selection mediated by a drug resistance gene in patients with GBM. The trial is important not only for GBM patients, but it is also a means to demonstrate the effective development of a platform for selecting gene-modified stem cells that could be used for the correction of numerous monogenic disorders.

In another example of a team science approach, members of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center have been tapped to join an important NCI multi-site prospective study of all grade II, II and IV glioma patients within the state. With a NIH-awarded contract of $715,000 with the potential for an extension leading to more than $2.5M, researchers will be part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Project, which is a national comprehensive and coordinated effort to accelerate understanding of the genetics of cancer using innovative genome analysis technologies. The overarching goal of TCGA is to improve the ability to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Under the direction of principal investigator Jill Barnholtz-Sloan, PhD, assistant professor of general medical sciences, newly diagnosed patients with gliomas will be prospectively accrued from her Ohio Brain Tumor Study (OBTS), a multi-site study within the State of Ohio that includes Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center (the lead site), the Cleveland Clinic Brain Tumor Center, the Department of Neurosurgery at the Ohio State University Medical Center, and the Department of Neurosurgery at the Mayfield Clinic/University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Case Western Reserve faculty have worked closely with TCGA for many years; Dr. Barnholtz-Sloan and Andrew Sloan, MD, the Peter D. Cristal Chair in Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine and director of the Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center at UHCMC are active members of the TCGA Glioma Disease Expert Working groups. In this role, they are actively involved in decisions regarding the inclusion criteria for glioma patients and which scientific questions have been prioritized for analysis and publication. In addition, Neal Meropol, MD Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and UH Case Medical Center and Associate Director for Clinical Research, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is a member of the TCGA Colorectal Cancer Disease Expert Working group.

The Department of Bioethics was awarded a $2.5 million continuation grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute that will extend funding for its Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law (CGREAL) for an additional four years. The School of Medicine’s CGREAL is a national NIH Center of Excellence in Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) Research, which includes more than 20 faculty members across multiple academic departments, clinical units, and institutions in Northeast Ohio. It is co-directed through the collaborative partnership of Patricia Marshall, PhD, professor of bioethics, and Richard Sharp, PhD, director of research in the Department of Bioethics at the Cleveland Clinic. The mission of the CGREAL is to conduct transdisciplinary studies of ethical and societal issues in human genetic research and the introduction of new genetic technologies into patient care and public health; additionally it seeks to prepare young scholars for successful careers in Ethical, Legal, Social Issues (ELSI) research.

In the CGREAL’s first five years, it explored a range of ethical, legal and policy issues in the design and conduct of genomic gene-discovery research. In the four years supported by this renewal grant, the center will follow the trajectory of genomics into its “translational” phase, where expanded research needs and higher clinical aspirations are creating new ethical, legal, and policy challenges.

Source: Case Western Reserve University press release

Scientifically Boggled by Politics

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-03-2010

As results for the recent US midterm election roll in, I am left pondering what impact a Republican controlled Senate will have on science funding and policy making. Truth be told, I was never much of a poli-science major. I much preferred sticking with courses in molecular biology, immunology, chemistry and even (lord help me) organic chemistry. However, as I grow older and mature (OK…perhaps the use of the term “mature” is an exaggeration) I realize that decisions taken by our politicians can significantly impact our ability to do scientific research both in terms of funding (i.e. NIH budget) and various activities (i.e. stem cell research).

In a news article published today in Science, Jocelyn Kaiser writes that in the wake of last night’s electoral upheaval, the NIH is hoping that Congress will approve House of Representatives and Senate spending bills that would give NIH a $1 billion boost over 2010. She also ponders what effect election results will have on NIH’s guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research.

Googling “election results science funding” has turned up an article on (I guess the url was already taken) that predicts dire consequences to US research funding in 2011 should there be a big Republican win in yesterday’s elections. The articles author, Rebecca Tragger, suggests that besides Republican leaders’ promise to hold spending levels at or below those of 2010, alame duck session with an incoming Republican chamber of Congress is bound to have a significant impact on promises already made by the previous government.

It is with great sadness that I turn to you my dear American Biotechnologists, with a humble request that you please explain to me what the heck all this means!!! I know that it is important news but my brain is tuned to PCR, Western Blotting, ELISA and Chromatography and I believe that the mechanism for understanding US politics has been downregulated in my brain. I even tried watching Noam Chomsky’s explanation of American politics but I fell asleep at 1 minute and 30 seconds (take a look below and tell me if you make it that far).

What I really need is a SCIENTISTS explanation of the political system and how election results will affect my life. Is there anyone out there who can help me?

By the way…what is the term “science” doing in politics anyway (i.e. political science)? Give me DNA, RNA and Protein. Now that’s something I can appreciate!

Sequencing Sitting Bull-Frivolous Funding or Good PR

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 08-23-2010

According to a report in ScienceNews, the famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull may be joining the small but growing number of people who have had their DNA sequenced. In reporting this story, GenomeWeb quoted Blaine Bettinger at The Genetic Genealogist who named Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Ötzi and Juanita the Peruvian Ice Maiden (a 600-year-old mummy) as other famous personalities whose DNA should also be sequenced as a memento of the past.

What intrigued me most about this story was not the “wow” factor associated with sequencing a famous person’s DNA, nor was it the ethical issue of sequencing someone’s genome without their permission as proposed by The Genetic Genealogist. What got me thinking about this story was a comment by S. Pelech on GenomeWeb where s/he laments that despite the decreasing costs associated with whole genome sequencing, money spent on sequencing the genomes of long-dead celebrities would be better spent on research initiatives that would be of more benefit to human health.

In general, I agree with S. Pelech that “trimming the fat” from the system and concentrating our resources on more practical research projects would be a prudent use of scare research funds. In siding with S. Pelech, I am assuming that his beef is with the use of public grant funds for what I like to call “extracurricular” research. I do not believe that we should be dictating how private funds are used in any research environment.

On the other hand, the glitz and glamor associated with sequencing Albert Einstein or Sitting Bull’s genome will likely increase public awareness of genome sequencing projects (or at least keep the field in the forefront of the public consciousness) and may ultimately lead to more public support for other genomic project and increased funding down the road. After all, government funding of science is generally determined by public perception. If the public is in support of increasing research funding then the government will be more likely to follow suit (especially with campaign promises during election season).

So to summarize my thoughts, I believe that although we should focus our dollars of funding “practical” research projects, there is room for supporting “eye candy” research if it helps keep the public focused on scientific research.

What are your thoughts?