LI Bioscience Hub backs 10 in new funding round

Proof of concept: Ten research projects have earned $550,000 in grants from the Long Island Bioscience Hub.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A fresh batch of commercially promising biomedical innovations has been funded by the Long Island Bioscience Hub.

The LIBH’s third round of grant awards – bestowed upon 10 distinct applicants hailing from Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, three of the hub’s four partner institutions – totals $550,000.

hub-7Stony Brook-based research earned seven of the awards, including the only $100,000 “proof of concept” award granted this round. Two CSHL projects and one Feinstein Institute project were also funded. Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of the original three LIBH members along with SBU and CSHL, did not receive any project funding this round.

The technology-development awards – including nine “feasibility” awards and the one proof-of-concept award – are meant to help establish a hub-centered “pipeline of commercially promising biomedical technologies,” according to a statement from SBU’s Center for Biotechnology, which announced the latest LIBH funding round Tuesday.

The six-figure proof-of-concept award – meant to provide “milestone-driven support” for existing intellectual property, according to the hub – went to a computer-driven “fast guided searching of protein conformational spaces,” part of a project run by Stony Brook professor Kevin Gill, director of SBU’s Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology.

Clinton Rubin: Bioscience blooming.

Clinton Rubin: Bioscience blooming.

Also granted were a total of $450,000 in feasibility awards. Designed to test new ideas in a “fail fast or proceed” format, according to the hub, the nine awards cover a wide range of disciplines, including radiology, chemistry, neurosurgery and cancer research.

The list “demonstrates the volume of innovation” in the LIBH’s partner institutions, according to Clinton Rubin, chairman of SBU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Center for Biotechnology – innovation that is “primed to be moved out of the academic lab and into the commercial sector.”

“It is exciting to witness our region’s innovators contemplating their research in ways they hadn’t before, and to see the vibrancy of the bioscience cluster on Long Island growing with each new project proposed,” Rubin said.

Among the projects earning feasibility awards this round are an SBU effort to develop unique radiotracers for use with positron-emission tomography scans searching for bacterial infections; the development at CSHL of learning algorithms and bioinformatics software that can more accurately profile the human immune system; and an automated screening method for heart defects, including defects common to premature infants, drawn up at the Feinstein Institute.

Noting the institute – which officially joined the LIBH in April – is “proud to be part of the Bioscience Hub’s success,” Feinstein President and CEO Kevin Tracey said the $50,000 stipend for researcher Robert Koppel’s congenital heart disease-device is a prime example of “bringing medical solutions that help address patients’ needs from the research lab to the doctor’s office.”

“The success of the Long Island Bioscience Hub demonstrates the value of creative partnerships,” Tracey said Tuesday.

Teri Willey: The reviews are in.

Teri Willey: The reviewers are in.

Both of the CSHL projects funded in the third round – the immune system bioinformatics effort directed by researcher Gurinder Atwal and the development of a small-molecule pharmaceutical treatment for bone-marrow deficiencies by researcher Lingbo Zhang – will benefit from the LIBH awards not only financially, but through exposure to “industry reviewers,” noted Teri Willey, CSHL’s vice president of business development and technology transfer.

“Putting CSHL scientists together with hub biotech entrepreneurs and industry reviewers is key to the successful translation of early-stage ideas resulting from basic research,” Willey said in a statement.

The LIBH – one of only three National Institutes of Health-designated Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs – is designed specifically to help commercialize technologies created at its member institutions. It’s funded by a $3 million NIH award and over $5 million in contributions from its members, the SUNY Research Foundation and Empire State Development.

The hub bestowed $900,000 upon 13 projects in its first funding round in December 2015, then followed that in May with a $600,000 round supporting 10 research initiatives. All told, the LIBH plans to award $8.1 million in grants.

A full list of projects awarded in the November 2016 funding round is available from the Center for Biotechnology.


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