SBU lands $20M for energy, biotech centers

Center for Biotechnology execs Clinton Rubin (left) and Diane Fabel (center) with SBU eco-dev chief Yacov Shamash (no smile?) and center staff.

Two Empire State Development awards totaling $20 million will propel Stony Brook University into the future of biotech and energy efficiency.

The first award, totaling $10 million over 10 years, will be used to create a new Center for Advanced Technology in Integrated Electric Energy Systems. The second, also for $10 million over 10 years, will support SBU’s existing Center for Biotechnology. Both awards come through NYSTAR, the state economic development agency’s science, technology and innovation division.

Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley called the investments in the centers for advanced technology “a tremendous shot in the arm for Long Island and New York State.”

“It’s a wonderful endorsement of our existing biotech CAT and our vision for the CAT in electrical energy systems,” Stanley said in a statement.

The $10 million for the electrical center will be used to promote the development and integration of advanced technologies into electrical systems, with the ultimate goal of accelerating the progress of renewable-energy technologies. Benjamin Hsiao, the new center’s director, said the “unique platform” will build on existing research and industry partnerships.

“This new CAT will be a gateway to routinely connect faculty with industry to leverage the development of advanced energy technologies,” Hsiao added, noting economic benefits including new energy-related jobs.

The effort to establish the new center was led by Yacov Shamash, SBU’s vice president for economic development and the outgoing dean of the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In a written statement, Shamash called the NYSTAR funding “a testament to our cutting-edge research in energy, our success in transforming research … into commercializable products and our outstanding record in working with industry.”

The center will also “extend the campus economic-development mission by growing the job market on and off campus in energy, one of the most critical economic-development sectors of the state, national and global economics,” Shamash said.

The new CAT will leverage numerous SBU and Brookhaven National Laboratory collaborations on energy-storage and electrical-grid technologies, including research coming out of the Department of Energy-funded Energy Frontier Research Center, a national program encouraging transformative energy discoveries at 32 independent facilities. Long Island’s Energy Frontier efforts are led by Esther Takeuchi, BNL’s chief scientist and an SBU chemistry and engineering professor.

The $10 million biotech award will facilitate innovations at SBU’s 30-year-old Center for Biotechnology – one of the state’s seven original CATs – including new therapeutics, diagnostics and biomedical devices. The center is already credited with helping to develop all six of the FDA-approved pharmaceuticals developed within the SUNY system, and with supporting the development of the breakthrough 3-D virtual colonoscopy.

SUNY Distinguished Professor Clinton Rubin, chairman of SBU’s biomedical engineering department and director of the Center for Biotechnology, said the school was honored by NYSTAR’s $10 million re-designation.

“We look forward to this next chapter,” Rubin said. “The partnership between New York State and academic institutions is unique, and we enjoy working with state government and the private sector to bridge difficulties that often hamper the development of discoveries.”

The re-upping of the Center for Biotechnology is also a catalyst for the new Long Island Bioscience Hub, a collaborative R&D effort uniting SBU, BNL and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and one of only three National Institutes of Health-supported hub programs in the country. Launched in April with a $3 million NIH grant, the program supports the formation of startup biotech companies on Long Island and around New York State.

With the latest award, SBU becomes the only university in the state to receive competitive NYSTAR awards for three different Centers for Advanced Technology, including the university’s Sensor CAT, where research ranges from new materials and infrared lasers to signal processing and cybersecurity.

Since the CAT program was established in 1983 to encourage economic development and tech-based research and collaboration, the program has grown to include 15 centers around New York, including SBU’s three.