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Stranahan Award Supports Medical College Of Ohio s Fledgling Bioinformatics Program

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A $300,000 matching grant from Ohio’s Stranahan Foundation will help Toledo’s Medical College of Ohio establish its new program in bioinformatics and proteomics/genomics.

The grant, which the MCO must match within a year, follows a $2 million grant from the MCO’s philanthropic arm, the MCO Foundation, and Mercy Health Partners to establish the program in cooperation with the nearby University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University.

The three schools will work together to hire new faculty and to purchase and share new equipment.

Robert Blumenthal, a professor of microbiology and immunology at MCO who heads up the program, said that small institutions must work together in order to keep up with larger universities that have more funding to work with.

“We’re actively seeking to partner with other small schools or large schools, or industry or anyone else who’s interested to see what they can do in a smaller operation,” Blumenthal said.

The funding will be devoted to setting up a microarray facility, a teleconferencing room, and a bioinformatics computer lab at the MCO. Blumenthal said the computer lab will contain 21 seats plus an instructor’s station, “but the specific machinery and software is still up in the air.”

This indecision is partly due to the fact that the Ohio Supercomputer Center is negotiating to provide enterprise bioinformatics applications to Ohio schools, Blumenthal said. “It’s worth our while to wait and get it from them free, or at low cost, if we can.”

In terms of in-house machines, “We’re probably going to go with a mix of Linux or G4s. Now with OS X being Unix-based, it’s a much more attractive option than it used to be,” said Blumenthal.

The MCO is seeking to hire two bioinformatics staff members at first, which will be augmented by one or two additional faculty at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green. The institutions will co-recruit these staffers, Blumenthal said, “so people will know they’re coming into an environment where they’ll have colleagues to work with.”

Steve Stranahan, president of the Stranahan Foundation, said this award is the foundation’s first bioinformatics grant. “Medical research was a prime area of interest for the founders of the Stranahan Foundation,” he said. “When we see something they would have done we jump on it.”

The Stranahan Foundation was created in 1944 by Frank and Robert Stranahan, founders of the Champion Spark Plug Company in Toledo, Ohio.

— BT

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