Welcome to the biweekly electronic newsletter from Stanford Bio-X for members of the Bio-X Corporate Forum. Please contact us if you would like to be added or removed from this distribution list, or if you have any questions about Stanford Bio-X or Stanford University.


Seed Grant Program

SEED GRANTS FOR SUCCESS - Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program (IIP)

The Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program represents a key Stanford Initiative to address challenges in human health. The IIP awards approximately $3 million every other year in the form of two-year grants averaging about $150,000 each. From its inception in 2000 through the fifth round in 2010, the program has provided critical early-stage funding to 114 different interdisciplinary projects, involving collaborations from over 300 faculty members, and creating over 450 teams from five different Stanford schools. From just the first 4 rounds, the IIP awards have resulted in a 10-fold-plus return on investment, as well as hundreds of publications, dozens of patents filed, and most importantly, the acceleration of scientific discovery and innovation.

In 2012, Stanford Bio-X selected 23 new seed grant projects as the winners of the 6th round. Please go here to view the list of awardees, along with the titles of their projects and the abstracts of the research. Competition was intense as the awardees were chosen from 118 Letters of Intent (LOIs). Selection criteria included innovation, high-reward, and interdisciplinary collaboration. (To view the 114 other IIP projects that have been funded from the first 5 rounds, please click here.) In addition, SANOFI has also funded 4 new Bio-X IIP Seed Grant projects from round 6!

** On February 25, 2013, Stanford Bio-X held its latest annual IIP Seed Grant Symposium at the Clark Center. It was attended by over 150 people, and the symposium included 8 podium presentations and 116 poster presentations. The podium talks represented research from a wide array of fields (such as gene delivery to interactive gaming in biology to tele-robotic systems to stem cells to hedgehog signal transductions and more), with each project exemplifying the Stanford Bio-X mission of crossing boundaries to bring about interdisciplinary research and solutions in the field of life bioscience. The talks will be posted online shortly for viewing. To view previously recorded talks, please go here.

We are cultivating and are highly successful in building meaningful collaborations with numerous corporate colleagues. New collaborations through our seed grant projects are highly encouraged. To learn about how to get involved, please contact Dr. Hanwei Li or Dr. Heideh Fattaey.




Every year, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars of Bio-X affiliated faculty are highly encouraged to apply for the Bio-X Fellowships, which are awarded to research projects that are interdisciplinary and utilize the technologies of different fields to solve different biological questions. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively with professors of different departments, thus creating cross-disciplinary relationships among the different Stanford schools. Our fellows have conducted exciting research, resulting in publications in high-impact journals and have been offered excellent positions in industry and academia.

To date, Stanford Bio-X has a total of 126 Bio-X Fellows, including the 18 newest Fellowship awardees announced at last year's BIO-X FELLOWS SYMPOSIUM. Currently, Bio-X is in the process of reviewing its 10th year of applications and we look forward to continuing the support of our students' graduate training in interdisciplinary biosciences.

To view the numerous projects that have been awarded over the years, please click here.


The Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program supports undergraduate research training through an award designed to support interdisciplinary undergraduate summer research projects. The program is an invaluable opportunity for students to conduct hands-on research, learn how to carry out experiments in the laboratory, and develop the skills to read and analyze scientific literature.

To date, 176 students have been awarded the opportunity to participate in the Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Currently, Stanford Bio-X is in its 8th call for applications. This is eligible to Stanford students who wants to work in the labs of Bio-X affiliate faculty.

Participating undergraduates are also required to present poster presentations on the research that they've conducted during the program. Please click here for title lists of past posters that our undergraduates have presented.

Many fruitful collaborations and relationships have been established with industry through fellowships. Please contact Dr. Hanwei Li or Dr. Heideh Fattaey if you'd like to learn more about how to get involved with these fellowship programs.



Bioengineer Markus Covert awarded $1.5 million grant
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Markus Covert

Markus Covert, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering, has been awarded a $1.5 million Distinguished Investigator exploratory grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Covert was one of five recipients of this year's award, which, according to the foundation, "aims to unlock fundamental questions in biology." Covert's research involves building complex computer models of living organisms. Last year, he announced completion of the world's first whole-cell computer model of a simple bacterium. The three-year grant will support Covert's ongoing work to develop models of cells of increasing complexity, including human cells.

'Clinical trials in a dish’ may be more reliable than standard way of measuring drug effects on heart, researchers say
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Joseph Wu
Bio-X Fellowship Funded Project

Last week, the common antibiotic Zithromax received a new warning label from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicating it could cause dangerous arrhythmias in people with pre-existing heart conditions. Today, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine describe a “clinical trial in a dish” using patient-specific induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells to predict whether a drug will dangerously affect the heart’s function. The technique may be more accurate than the current in vitro drug-safety screening assays used by pharmaceutical companies, say the researchers, and may better protect patients from deadly side effects of common medications. The technique allows scientists for the first time to test drugs directly on cells with mutations that cause hereditary cardiac diseases, rather than on the genetically modified human embryonic kidney cells or the Chinese hamster ovarian cells currently being used to detect cardiac toxicity. The use of patient-specific iPS cells may help drug designers winnow heart-safe medications from those like the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market because of unanticipated adverse cardiovascular events. It may also allow clinicians to identify sub-groups of patients, such as those with certain types of cardiac conditions, who should not be given certain drugs.

Stem cells entering heart can be tracked with nano-‘hitchhikers,’ scientists say
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Sam Gambhir

The promise of repairing damaged hearts through regenerative medicine — infusing stem cells into the heart in the hope that these cells will replace worn out or damaged tissue — has yet to meet with clinical success. But a highly sensitive visualization technique developed by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists may help speed that promise’s realization. The technique is described in a study published March 20 in Science Translational Medicine. Testing the new imaging method in humans is probably three to five years off. Human and animal trials in which stem cells were injected into cardiac tissue to treat severe heart attacks or substantial heart failure have largely yielded poor results, said Sam Gambhir, PhD, MD, senior author of the study and professor and chair of radiology. “We’re arguing that the failure is at least partly due to faulty initial placement,” he said. “You can use ultrasound to visualize the needle through which you deliver stem cells to the heart. But once those cells leave the needle, you’ve lost track of them.” As a result, key questions go unanswered: Did the cells actually get to the heart wall? If they did, did they stay there, or did they diffuse away from the heart? If they got there and remained there, for how long did they stay alive? Did they replicate and develop into heart tissue? “All stem cell researchers want to get the cells to the target site, but up until now they’ve had to shoot blindly,” said Gambhir, who is also the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor in Cancer Research and director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford. “With this new technology, they wouldn’t have to. For the first time, they would be able to observe in real time exactly where the stem cells they’ve injected are going and monitor them afterward. If you inject stem cells into a person and don’t see improvement, this technique could help you figure out why and tweak your approach to make the therapy better.”

Biological transistor enables computing within living cells, study says
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Drew Endy

When Charles Babbage prototyped the first computing machine in the 19th century, he imagined using mechanical gears and latches to control information. ENIAC, the first modern computer developed in the 1940s, used vacuum tubes and electricity. Today, computers use transistors made from highly engineered semiconducting materials to carry out their logical operations. And now a team of Stanford University bioengineers has taken computing beyond mechanics and electronics into the living realm of biology. In a paper published March 28 in Science, the team details a biological transistor made from genetic material — DNA and RNA — in place of gears or electrons. The team calls its biological transistor the “transcriptor." “Transcriptors are the key component behind amplifying genetic logic — akin to the transistor and electronics,” said Jerome Bonnet, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in bioengineering and the paper’s lead author. The creation of the transcriptor allows engineers to compute inside living cells to record, for instance, when cells have been exposed to certain external stimuli or environmental factors, or even to turn on and off cell reproduction as needed. “Biological computers can be used to study and reprogram living systems, monitor environments and improve cellular therapeutics,” said Drew Endy, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering and the paper’s senior author.

Stem cells use signal orientation to guide division, study shows
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Roeland Nusse

Cells in the body need to be acutely aware of their surroundings. A signal from one direction may cause a cell to react in a very different way than if it had come from another direction. Unfortunately for researchers, such vital directional cues are lost when cells are removed from their natural environment to grow in an artificial broth of nutrients and growth factors. Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have devised a way to mimic in the laboratory the spatially oriented signaling that cells normally experience. Using the technique, they’ve found that the location of a “divide now” signal on the membrane of a mouse embryonic stem cell governs where in that cell the plane of division occurs. It also determines which of two daughter cells remains a stem cell and which will become a progenitor cell to replace or repair damaged tissue. The research offers an unprecedented, real-time glimpse into the intimate world of a single stem cell as it decides when and how to divide, and what its daughter cells should become. But the implications stretch beyond stem cells. “In the body, it is likely that every cell grows and differentiates in some kind of orientation,” said Roeland Nusse, PhD, professor of developmental biology. “Without this guidance, specialized cells would end up in the wrong place. Now, we can study the division of single mammalian cells in real time and see them dividing and differentiating in an oriented way."



School of Medicine Deans Office
April 4, 2013, 8:30 am - 9:30 am
LKSC Bldg, Room 203/204, 291 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA
"Genetically-engineered Animals with Optical Signatures, and without"
Speaker: Yu An Cao, Senior Scientist, TransDerm
April 10, 2013, 4 pm - 5 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
Frontiers in Biology - "Using mouse models to improve cancer therapy"
Speaker: Michael Hemann, Associate Professor of Biology
CNC Program Annual Symposium
Please email Cynthia Delacruz for more information
Stanford University
James H. Clark Center Auditorium
April 5, 2013

Welcome and Opening Remarks
President John Hennessy
President of Stanford University

Introduction to CNC
Karl Deisseroth, DH Chen Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry, Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Program Director, CNC)

8:30-9:45 am
Opening Keynote: “Building Molecules to Image and Control Neuronal Function”
Roger Y. Tsien, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Pharmacology and Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego

10:00-10:15 am
“See the Force: Novel Probes of Mechanical Force Propagation in the Nervous System”
Miriam B. Goodman, Department of Molecular & Cellular Physiology, School of Medicine, Stanford University
Alex Dunn, Department of Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering, Stanford University

10:15-10:45 am

10:45-11:15 am
“Reading Large-Scale Neural Codes in Freely Behaving Mice, a Thousand Cells per Mouse”
Mark Schnitzer, Departments of Applied Physics and Biology, Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Program Director, CNC)

11:15-11:30 am
“Speech Encoding Within the Mammalian Cochlea”
Audrey K. Ellerbee, Department of Electrical Engineering, School of Engineering, Stanford University
John S. Oghalai, Department of Otolaryngology, School of Medicine, Stanford University

11:30-1:30 pm

1:30-2:15 pm
“Nano-Bio Interfacing and Single-Cell Transcriptomics: Innovative New Tools for Cell and Neurobiology”
Hongkun Park, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Department of Physics, Harvard University

2:15-2:30 pm
“Cracking the Multi-Layered Sensory Code”
Surya Ganguli, Department of Applied Physics, School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University
Stephen Baccus, Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine, Stanford University

2:30-3:15 pm
“Big Data Computing for Connectomics: Spatial Databases, Scalable Analytics, HPC, NoSQL, Cloud, and Much Much More”
Randal Burns, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University

3:15-3:45 pm

3:45-4:15 pm
“Optical Deconstruction of Fully-Assembled Neural Systems”
Karl Deisseroth

4:15-5:00 pm
Closing Keynote: “Why Have a Brain Activity Map Project Now?”
Terry Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

5:00-5:15 pm
Closing Remarks
Mark Schnitzer



Stanford University
Stanford Bio-X
Bio-X Seed Grants
The Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program (IIP) provides seed funding for high-risk, high-reward, collaborative projects across the university, and have been highly successful in fostering transformative research.
Office of Technology and Licensing "Techfinder"
Search the OTL Technology Portal to find technologies available for licensing from Stanford.
Stanford Center for Professional Development
- Take advantage of your FREE membership!
- Take online graduate courses in engineering, leadership and management, bioscience, and more.
- Register for free webinars and seminars, and gets discounts on courses.
Stanford Biodesign Video Tutorials on how FDA approves medical devices
A series of video briefs recently produced by the Stanford Biodesign Program teaches innovators how to get a medical device approved for use in the United States. This free, online library of 60 videos provides detailed information on the Food and Drug Administration regulatory process, short case studies and advice on interacting with the FDA.

To learn more about Stanford Bio-X or Stanford University, please contact Dr. Hanwei Li, the Bio-X Corporate Forum Liaison, at 650-725-1523 or lhanwei1@stanford.edu, or Dr. Heideh Fattaey, the Executive Director of Bio-X Operations and Programs, at 650-799-1608 or hfattaey@stanford.edu.

Release Date: 
April 01, 2013