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NSF Funds $1M Virginia Tech DNA Fabrication Efforts

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – An interdisciplinary team of Virginia Tech scientists have won a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation that they will use to optimize the processes and tools used for building custom DNA molecules and to train young researchers and students in DNA synthesis.

The researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and VT's Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering won the funding under NSF's Creative Research Awards for Transformative Interdisciplinary Ventures (CREATIV) program, VT said.

According to the university, research to improve the DNA fabrication process, which includes gene synthesis, development of mutant collections, and other activities, will help train new researchers in a growing segment of the life sciences that will be important both scientifically and economically in the future.

"In order to enhance US competitiveness, it is necessary to find ways of producing more data, more discoveries, and more applications with stable or shrinking resources," VBI Professor Jean Peccoud said in a statement. "We are proposing a change of paradigm in laboratory management that will enable American biotechnology companies to create manufacturing jobs for people who did not have a chance to receive a college education."

"This project will provide unique cross-training opportunities in biology and engineering for undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows," added Jaime Camelio, director of the Virginia Tech graduate program in Industrial and Systems Engineering.

"It will give industrial engineering students an opportunity to explore a new frontier. Life science students will gain exposure to management techniques that will help them streamline the operation of their labs in academia or industry after they graduate," he added.