Thursday, August 16, 2007

UA plant scientist and HTG receive $2.17 million SFAz SRG grant

[Source: Deborah Daun, Bio5] – A collaboration between University of Arizona (UA) Plant Sciences Professor and BIO5 member David Galbraith, PhD, and High Throughput Genomics (HTG), a Tucson-based company providing gene expression assay technology and services for the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry, was awarded a two-year $2,171,550 Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) Strategic Research Group (SRG) grant. SRG grants seed partnerships between researchers from the research-performing institutions and industry in strategic areas. Each SRG proposal defines how investigators manage and/or exploit intellectual property to the advantage of Arizona. SFAz will provide $1 million for the first year of the grant, and based on the achievements of specific milestones, an additional $1 million for the second year. The $171,550 is designated for a UA institutional allowance.

The HTG/Galbraith-BIO5 collaboration—Chemical Genomics and Translational Research Center (CGTR)—also is receiving in-kind funding from HTG and the UA/BIO5, potentially bringing the funding total to $6 million over two years. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to build this unique public-private sector partnership. Establishment of the CGTR should lead to important advances that could result in considerable economic benefits to the Tucson area and to the state of Arizona,” said Dr. Galbraith.

The CGTR—led jointly by Dr. Galbraith and HTG Chief Scientific Officer Bruce Seligmann, PhD—will be based in BIO5’s new Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building on The University of Arizona campus. The center will expand and develop HTG's quantitative Nuclease Protection Assay (qNPA™) platform into a high density microarray to improve the quality and speed of biomarker and target identification, validation and subsequent screening and optimization of agricultural and pharmaceutical compounds. This advanced technology helps scientists identify changes in normal gene expression, such as abnormalities caused by disease as well as beneficial and adverse changes in gene activity caused by drugs. “The utilization of qNPA™ as the assay to quantitatively and precisely measure gene expression by high-density arrays from any type of sample, including fixed tissues, will bring a new level of enabling performance to this platform,” says Dr. Seligmann.

The qNPA™ platform will be validated and applied to a diverse set of BIO5 projects conducted by UA faculty. One project focuses on identifying agricultural chemicals that will reduce the cost of producing ethanol for biofuels. Other projects will adapt and apply the qNPA platform to identify molecular changes that occur when cells become cancerous. Subsequently, this information will provide critical insights to allow new cancer drugs to be designed and rapidly tested, and new prognostic assays to accurately predict personal response to drug therapies.

HTG will commercialize identified biomarkers and high density array products developed by the CGTR for the qNPA™ platform and the UA will commercialize biomarkers and new technologies for other than the qNPA™ platform. "The CGTR exemplifies the role BIO5 plays in engaging the strengths of the academic and industrial communities by applying cutting-edge technology to tackle real world problems in agriculture and medicine," says BIO5 Director Vicki Chandler, PhD.

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