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NIH, ABRF, Broad Institute, Pressure BioSciences, USAMRIID, Fluorotechnics, Gel Company, Protein Forest, Whitehead Institute, Harvard Medical School, Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry Facility at the University of Massachusetts Medical School

NIH Announces New Funding Program for ‘Bold’ Research
The National Institutes of Health announced this week that it intends to invest more than $250 million during the next five years in a new funding program aimed at fostering “bold and creative investigator-initiated research.”
The new transformative R01 Program is aimed at supporting “exceptionally innovative, original, or unconventional research that will allow investigators to seize unexpected opportunities and cultivate bold ideas regardless of the anticipated risk,” the NIH said in a statement. R01 grants support the majority of mainstream NIH research efforts, but the structure and review of R01 proposals often discourage applications for risky research proposals, the institute said.
“The T-R01 Program will pilot novel approaches to peer review to facilitate identification and support of the most ground-breaking, high-impact research and augment the existing Pioneer and New Innovator Awards programs," said NIH Director Elias Zerhouni in the statement.
The TR01 program is a trans-NIH effort coordinated by the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives, or OPASI, as part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, and is the result of years-long discussion on how to encourage thinking outside the box, said Alan Krensky, director of OPASI.
“This new mechanism is designed to encourage the generation of new scientific paradigms or the disruption of old ones," he said.
The TR01 program will fund original studies that create new paradigms for biomedical and behavioral sciences; reflect “an exceptional level of creativity” in proposing new and bold approaches to fundamental problems; and promote radical changes in a particular field of study and impact other scientific areas, according to the NIH.
Proposals will be evaluated by new procedures being piloted by the NIH Center for Scientific Review distinct from the traditional NIH peer review process. The institute is accepting applications for new five-year grants now and plans to fund the first cohort of T-R01 awards in 2009. If funds are available, it hopes to announce the T-R01 Program again in 2010.
More information about the program can be found here.
Separately, the NIH also announced last week it has renewed a program aimed at helping small life-science businesses that have recently been awarded Small Business Innovation Research Phase II awards move their products or services to market.
The program, called the Commercialization Assistance Program, will last until next June. It is currently in its fifth year.
The deadline for applications for the program is Sept. 26. More information is available here.

Test Samples for ABRF’s Edman Sequencing Group Ready
The Edman Sequencing Research Group of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities announced this week test samples for its 2009 study are available.
The study this year will investigate traditional and alternative methods for obtaining the N-terminal sequence of a protein. Participants will be able to use any Edman, mass spectrometric, or biochemical method or technology they choose, or a combination of methods.
ESRG will supply lyophilized samples to participants. The study is open to all mass spectrometry and proteomic laboratories, and Edman sequencing facilities.
Participants will submit their results electronically to ESRG, and results will be presented at ABRF’s annual conference in Memphis in February.
The deadline for sample requests is Oct. 3 and data should be submitted by Dec. 5.
The identities of participants will be anonymous. Requests for samples and participation in the survey can be e-mailed to [email protected].

Broad Institute Receives an Additional $400M
The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT last week announced that philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad have committed an additional $400 million to the institute, bringing its total endowment to $600 million.
The interdisciplinary collaborative institute, which includes more than 1,200 researchers from both MIT and Harvard, was created in 2004 as a “venture experiment” with a $100 million commitment from Eli and Edythe Broad. The philanthropists doubled that gift the following year.
The institute said today that the additional funding will allow it to transform itself into a “permanent biomedical research organization aimed at transforming medicine.”
The $600 million gift, the largest such commitment for biomedical research in the world, according to the Broad, will help it “transition to a permanent non-profit organization, with both universities continuing to help govern it.”
Eli Broad, founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, said in a statement that the institute’s “unique collaborative model for scientific research has resulted in remarkable accomplishments in a very short period of time.”
He added that despite the size of the gift — the largest the foundation has ever made — “it is only a fraction of what will be needed to unlock the enormous promise of biomedical research at MIT and Harvard.”
Broad said that the organization hopes to see the endowment grow to $1 billion through investment and additional contributions.
“We are convinced that the genomics and biomedical work being conducted here at the world’s leading genomics center by the world’s best and brightest scientists will ultimately lead to the cure and even the prevention of diseases,” he said.

Pressure BioSciences, USAMRIID Develop Anti-Pathogenic Measures
Pressure BioSciences said this week it has entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases for use of the company’s pressure cycling technology.
Under the CRADA, the two partners will adapt Pressure BioSciences pressure cycling technology into protocols for the development of medical countermeasures against pathogens that may be used against the military.
The company will offer the USAMRIID use of its Barocycler NEP3229 for a mutually agreed upon period of time for evaluation and supply consumable processing containers and kits. It will also offer up to eight hours of technical support from its scientists per week.
Pressure BioSciences will not charge for the services and products.

Fluorotechnics to Buy GelCo
Australian labels and stains firm Fluorotechnics said this week it will acquire the Gel Company for an undisclosed amount.
According to a statement from Fluortechnics, GelCo sells more than 250 products for applications in proteomics, cell culture, DNA sequencing, liquid handling, microarrays, and PCR. Its product suite also enables Fluorotechnics’ non-fluorescent backed gels to operate on most platforms used in proteomics.
GelCo is based in San Francisco.
Duncan Veal, CEO of Fluorotechnics, said the acquisition is part of the company’s strategy to establish itself as a “global leader in the protein electrophoresis market.
“With GelCo’s San Francisco distribution office, Flurotechnics gets a very useful launch pad for the US market,” he said.

Massachusetts Schools Evaluate Protein Forest Software
Protein Forest said last week that its Mass Spec Results Analysis Tool will be evaluated at the Whitehead Institute, Harvard Medical School, and the Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry Facility at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The facilities will use the software to enable rapid discovery of data using Protein Forest’s digital ProteomeChip system. Studies being conducted by the three facilities include those directed at glial tumor biomarker discovery, the identification of prostate cancer markers in urine, and disease-associated major histocompatibility complex class I and class II peptides from T cells.
The MSRAT bioinformatics software was developed for the rapid discovery of new findings in proteomics data, maximizing a researcher’s ability to correlate protein expression, post-translational modifications, and pI isoforms with disease from MS/MS-based studies.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.