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Minnesota Partnership Funds New Studies

By a GenomeWeb Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics has awarded two new grants totaling nearly $1.4 million for research into cancer genetics aimed at developing new knowledge and treatments, according to the University of Minnesota.

The initiative between UMN and Mayo Clinic awarded these grants as part of $3.5 million in new funding to support four projects that will involve collaborative studies between scientists at both institutions focused on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and neurological diseases.

“By combining the skills and resources of the state’s two largest research institutions, we’re able to create research opportunities that might not otherwise be possible,” Eric Wieben, partnership director for Mayo Clinic, said in a statement.

“The projects being funded this year represent some of the best science anywhere, and encompass innovative approaches to some of the most important health issues in Minnesota,” added Tucker LeBien, Partnership director for the University.

One Minnesota Partnership grant of around $915,000 will explore how genes mutate in cancer cells in order to develop ways to disrupt that process. The approach would be used in a cancer treatment called synthetic lethality, which is achieved when two genes are mutated and cause the death of a cancer cell, but if either gene mutated on its own it would not kill the cell. In this project, the researchers will seek out combinations of genetic mutations that will target and destroy cancerous cells while leaving noncancerous cells intact, eventually leading to the creation of as many as 20 new drug candidates, UMN said.

Another of these grants will provide $434,000 to Mayo and UMN researchers studying ways to monitor how therapies are working by looking at their effects at the genetic level. The effort will focus on enzymes involved in DNA stabilization, and will seek to assess if DNA stabilization has taken place in tumor cells. The goal is to find ways to improve treatments for breast, ovarian, lung and colon cancer, UMN said.

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