NYSTAR Eyes Advisory Board to Drum Up Life-Sci Supercomputing Demand
The New York State Foundation for Science and Technology Research, or NYSTAR, will work with professionals in the life sciences and other industries to develop programs for increasing the use of the state-funded IBM supercomputer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by researchers and others.
NYSTAR last week announced that it would offer free access to a 100-teraflop IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer housed at RPI’s Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations.
Under the three-year program, the agency is offering nearly 150 million CPU-hours on the system.
Businesses and academic researchers in the state can apply for an unspecified amount of free time on the machine. Out-of-state businesses and academic institutions can still use the system, but must go through RPI or IBM, and are not entitled to free time through NYSTAR.
“Our intent is to create an advisory board which can help us in many ways, in terms of both the scientific application, the types of assistance we [can] best provide, but also helping us identify the outreach to the industries involved,” said Edward Reinfurt, NYSTAR’s executive director, answering a BRN question during an Aug. 13 conference call with reporters.
“We are going to make an aggressive effort to reach out to the trade associations and to specific companies. This will, in our own case, be a case of trial and error,” Reinfurt added.
Among questions the advisory board is expected to help NYSTAR resolve: What are the types of assistance skills the agency needs to offer to supercomputer users? How does the agency reach out to the life sciences and other industries? And should the program0 succeed in creating a backlog of users, how will the state assign priorities to users?
“We will learn from this process,” Reinfurt said.
Reinfurt also told reporters the agency has assigned the capacity-building program a high priority — increasing its chances of surviving the state’s current wave of cost-cutting by Gov. David Paterson. To eliminate a projected $6.4 billion budget deficit next fiscal year, the governor has proposed cutting $1 billion in state spending this fiscal year, and another $1.6 billion in the fiscal year that begins April 1, 2009.
Earlier this year Paterson ordered all agencies to cut spending by 10 percent — a cut that reduced the maximum amount the agency will give in Faculty Development grants this fiscal year, from $750,000 to $500,000 [BRN, July 7].
The cost-cutting won’t affect supercomputer operations, Reinfurt said, since the state long ago shelled out $70 million toward creating supercomputing systems at RPI as well as Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York.
The system is already helping at least one life-science firm in the state — Ithaca-based computational systems biology firm Gene Network Sciences, which has had access to the RPI Blue Gene system since it was installed nearly a year ago.
“For us it has been fantastic,” Colin Hill, GNS president and CEO, told BRN sister newsletter BioInform [Aug. 15]. The company is using the system for its proprietary technology called Reverse Engineering/Forward Simulation, or REFS, which performs in silico experiments and makes predictive simulations with massive datasets.
“We take experimental data that has been designed for the purposes of either target discovery or drug mechanism or efficacy discovery and use that with very large supercomputers to reverse engineer mechanisms from data,” he said.
The REFS technology is computationally hungry. It generates hundreds of thousands of models for each of these experiments, and then uses a global optimization approach to identify those models that best account for the patterns in the data.
Because of REFS’ intense computational requirements, access to the RPI system “is very attractive financially for us, especially since we don’t have to put a really big capital expense toward an asset like that, [which] depreciates so quickly and needs that kind of updating, care, and feeding,” he said
CIRM Awards $59M in New Faculty II Grants to 23 Up-and-Coming California Researchers
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, has awarded a total $59 million in New faculty II grants to early-career California researchers — 12 scientists and 11 physician scientists. A list of the researchers’ names, project summaries and funds awarded can be found here.
The New Faculty II Awards comprise the second round of CIRM funding to support MD and PhD scientists early in their careers in stem cell research. Investigators receive salary and research support for five years.
CIRM received 55 applications from 32 institutions. Each institution could recommend up to five faculty members minus the number that received New Faculty I awards.
Oklahoma’s EDGE Fund Climbs to $13.5M in Annual Earnings
Oklahoma’s Economic Development Generating Excellence board of investors has certified that the EDGE fund has climbed to $13.5 million since the state deposited the first cash into the program in 2006 — enough money to begin awarding grants for R&D projects statewide, the Journal Record of Oklahoma City, Okla., reported.
The EDGE Policy Board can invest up to 5 percent of the total value of the fund each year. At its current level, the fund is able to generate more than $6 million per year for investment in research.
In May, the policy board issued a request for proposals by researchers seeking funding for projects. The state gave preference to projects focused on biotechnology, as well as energy, aerospace, agriculture, and weather science. More than 90 applications were received; in July, the board narrowed the list down to 21 applicants who have been invited to submit more detailed proposals by September.
State Treasurer Scott Meacham, who is also chairman of the EDGE Fund Board of Investors, sought and received legislative confirmation during this year’s legislative session that annual earnings generated but unspent in one year can be rolled over to the next fiscal year.
San Diego Biotechnology Training Program Wins $245,300 Grant from Amgen Foundation
The San Diego Workforce Partnership, in conjunction with the Southern California Biotechnology Center at Miramar College, received a three-year, $245,300 grant from the Amgen Foundation to continue and expand the Amgen-Bruce Wallace Biotechnology Lab Program throughout the San Diego area.
The program is designed to raise science literacy by providing training and ongoing support through a hands-on laboratory experience for teachers. By integrating the program into the Workforce Partnership’s Life Sciences Summer Institute, the partnership hopes teachers will better understand the context behind the training curriculum.
First introduced in 1990, the Amgen-Bruce Wallace Program allows teachers to introduce biotechnology by integrating recombinant DNA technology into their science curriculum, and providing all of the equipment, supplies and reagents necessary for the program at no cost to the schools.
NC Biotech Center Awards $100K Grant for Center of Innovation in Natural Biotechnology
The state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center has awarded a $100,000 grant to an Asheville-based consortium eager to jump-start growth in the natural biotechnology sector.
Charter members of the new consortium include the International Institute for Natural Biotechnology and Integrative Medicine, also called the Bent Creek Institute; The North Carolina Arboretum; North Carolina State University; the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College; the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; the group Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina or MARBIONC; and Western Carolina, Appalachian State and Wake Forest universities. The committee also includes representatives from the Mission Healthcare Foundation.
The project has industry support from Gaia Herbs and Targacept as well as the North Carolina Natural Products Association. Other core members of the project are the NCSU Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center and the BioNetwork BioBusiness Center at AB-Tech.
Coordinating the planning process for the Bent Creek Center of Innovation for Natural Biotechnology and Integrative Medicine will be Annice Brown, an assistant director in the Asheville office of the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center.
The Biotechnology Center started the COI program last year as a way to combine biotechnology-dependent industry sectors and North Carolina’s diverse strengths to create jobs in all areas of the state. The COIs are designed to virtually coordinate North Carolina research within their industry sector to enhance the state’s commercial opportunities within nascent technologies.
Seattle’s Accelerator Corp. Creates Ninth New Biotech Company
Seattle’s Accelerator Corp. has formed its ninth life sciences company, Mirina Corp., focused on developing therapeutics using minor groove binder technology to affect cellular processes involving microRNAs.
Mirina, which has exclusively licensed the technology from Nanogen, is Accelerator’s first investment in a technology spinout from a publicly traded biotechnology company. The syndicate of investors leading the undisclosed size of the Series A investment in Mirina included Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Amgen Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, OVP Venture Partners and WRF Capital.