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New York State Commission on Higher Education, Empire State Stem Cell Board, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, North Carolina Biosciences Organization, Biofuels Center of North Carolina, Detroit Technical Equipment

New York’s Spitzer Seeks Innovation Fund, Eminent-Scholar Program for SUNY
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer included in last week’s State of the State address two recommendations contained in an 85-page report by a commission he appointed to studyimproving academics and funding at the State University of New York.
Spitzer urged the state Senate and Assembly to approve a new Empire State Innovation Fund to fund academic research at SUNY: “Supercharging cutting-edge academic research will also supercharge our innovation economy.”
But Spitzer did not recommend the $3 billion price tag set by his New York State Commission on Higher Education Commission, nor set any figure for the size of the fund. Two spokeswomen did not return e-mail messages from BRN seeking an explanation. Last week’s BRN included a possible rationale: The chairs for the Assembly and Senate education committees predicted a smaller then $3 billion fund because officials are also scrambling to plug a $4.3 billion shortfall in next year’s budget [BioRegion News, Jan. 7].
Spitzer did go along with the panel, however, on another recommendation — spending an unspecified amount of money to recruit 250 “eminent scholars” among 2,000 new full-time faculty members in a variety of disciplines.
The governor also recommended establishing an endowment for SUNY of “at least $4 billion,” which he said would generate $200 million in operating funds each year. Spitzer proposed paying for the endowment fund through a partial privatization of the state lottery.

25 Institutions Win $14.5M in New York State Stem Cell Research Grants
Twenty-five academic and nonprofit research institutions throughout New York state have been awarded a total $14.5 million in one-year development grants toward stem cell research — the first money spent for that purpose under the state’s stem-cell effort established last year.
The Funding Committee of the Empire State Stem Cell Board issued its first series of awards using a share of the $600 million committed by the state over 11 years for stem cell research, under a program approved last year by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and state lawmakers.
Additional research grants are set to be announced later this year.
The 25 winning institutions will receive “Institutional Development” grants, designed to increase the capacity of New York State research institutions to engage in stem cell research.
In the first financing round, all not-for-profit research institutions in New York that received at least $1 million in biomedical funding in 2006 from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation were eligible to apply for between $100,000 and $1 million in state funding. Institutions could request funding support for direct stem cell research, stem cell research equipment and infrastructure, and for training stem cell researchers.
Of the $14.5 million awarded, $6.1 million will fund direct stem cell research; $7.4 million, stem cell research infrastructure; and $1 million, stem cell research training.
A list of the winners is available here.

NC Biotech Center Awards $100,000 for Phase 1 Planning of Medical Technology Center
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has awarded a $100,000 grant to a consortium coordinated by North Carolina Biosciences Organization — the state’s chapter of the Biotechnology Industry Organization — for Phase I planning for a Center of Innovation in Advanced Medical Technologies.
If the resulting plan is completed and approved by the biotech center within a year, the COI would receive a four-year, $2.5 million Phase 2 grant to begin supporting commercialization of new products and recruitment and expansion of companies developing advanced medical technologies. Under the terms of the grant, the COI must be self-supporting within five years.
NCBIO’s partners in the project include the Charlotte Research Institute, the Duke University Department of Biomedical Engineering, the East Carolina Brody School of Medicine, the Joint School of Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the Wake Forest University Institute for Regenerative Medicine. 
Technology transfer offices at the partnering academic institutions, as well as representatives of the state’s regional economic development partnerships in Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad, the Research Triangle, and Eastern North Carolina will also participate in the planning process.
The grant was awarded four months after the biotech center and NCBIO published a 20-page study describing a three-year strategy intended to give North Carolina the same national leadership reputation for medical device and software businesses as it has with biotechnology. The strategy, complete with business plan and list of funding sources, beginning with the launch of a North Carolina Center for Advanced Medical Technologies [BioRegion News, Sept. 17].
Centers of innovation are not research campuses, though each is likely to have a small office to coordinate COI activities among participants; related laboratories and factories are to come from existing infrastructure across the state.
A group of Piedmont Triad institutions received a similar $100,000 grant from the Biotechnology Center in November to establish the first Center of Innovation, focusing on the emerging field of nanobiotechnology [BioRegion News, Nov. 5].

New Biofuels Center of North Carolina Begins Work
Members of the new Biofuels Center of North Carolina met for the first time to discuss how to grow the state’s biodiesel industry. The center will be based in Oxford, on North Carolina’s Biofuels Campus, established by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on the site of an old tobacco research station.
One of the center’s goals will be to identify next-generation crops and processes for both biodiesel and ethanol that will allow North Carolina to develop alternatives to corn-based ethanol. Long-term, the center said in a press release, its goal will be to craft strategies for accelerating research, then commercializing it for the benefit of the state’s rural and agricultural communities.
The General Assembly last year approved a $5 million appropriation for the biofuels center. The center is the outgrowth of a 2006 summit on biofuels attended by state, academic, legislative and corporate leaders. Following the summit, state Sen. Charlie Albertson (D-Beulaville) and Rep. Dewey Hill (D-Columbus) drafted legislation that passed as Senate Bill 2051 State Energy Use/Energy Assistance.
In addition, supporters of the industry crafted North Carolina’s Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership. The report set a 10-year goal for North Carolina to produce 10 percent of the liquid fuels sold in the state through biofuels grown and produced in the state.

New Troy, Mich., Business Formed to Sell Laboratory Furniture

A group of industry veterans have established Detroit Technical Equipment in Troy, Mich., a new business committed to selling research furniture to the region’s life science companies. The company — which will operate from 55 East Long Lake Road — said it will work with owners and their architects, engineers, and contractors in selecting, specifying and installing laboratory and institutional casework, fume hoods, cold rooms, library, and auditorium furniture.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.