Welcome to the biweekly electronic newsletter from the Bio-X Program at Stanford University 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 Bio-X or Stanford.

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 tenfold-plus return on investment, as well as hundreds of publications, dozens of patents filed, and most importantly, the acceleration of scientific discovery and innovation.

CURRENTLY, WE ARE HAVING OUR CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR THE 6TH ROUND OF SEED GRANTS FROM OUR FACULTY. Competition is intense, and the criteria for the proposals include innovation, high-reward, and interdisciplinary collaboration. To view the 114 different projects that have been funded so far, please click here.

On February 13, 2012, we held one of our two annual IIP symposia at the Clark Center, which showcases the awarded seed grant projects. Over 150 attendants were present for the 8 podium presentations and 103 poster presentations. The recorded talks are now online.

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 utilizes 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 excellent jobs in industry and academia.

Currently, we are reviewing our 9th call of Bio-X Fellowships proposals. Competition is intense, with only ~15% of proposals accepted each year. To view the numerous projects that have been awarded over the years, please click here.

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



Researchers discover drug target for stimulating recovery from stroke
Bio-X Director Carla Shatz and Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Rona Giffard
Investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that removing a matched set of molecules that typically help to regulate the brain’s capacity for forming and eliminating connections between nerve cells could substantially aid recovery from stroke even days after the event. In experiments with mice, the scientists demonstrated that when these molecules are not present, the mice’s ability to recover from induced strokes improved significantly. Importantly, these beneficial effects grew over the course of a full week post-stroke, suggesting that, in the future, treatments such as drugs designed to reproduce the effects in humans might work even if given as much as several days after a stroke occurs. ... The mice in the study had been genetically engineered to lack certain molecules that one of the Stanford researchers had previously shown to play a major role in modulating the ease with which key nerve-cell connections are made, strengthened, weakened or destroyed in the brain. The molecules in question include “K” and “D,” two of the 50 or so members of the so-called MHC class-1 complex, which plays a key role in the function of the immune system. Alternatively, when a receptor called PirB, which binds to these MHC molecules, is not present, the same improved outcome from stroke happens — significant, because receptors make good drug targets. ... “Nobody had ever thought any of these molecules had anything to do with stroke,” said Shatz, who is the Sapp Family Provostial Professor and also is the director of Bio-X, Stanford’s interdisciplinary biosciences research consortium. “But our lab had shown in 2009 that mice bioengineered to lack them performed like Olympians on motor-learning tasks.” The results, published Mar. 22 in Neuron, were unequivocal and potentially quite clinically significant: Mice genetically engineered to lack either K and D or PirB, a major cell-surface receptor for these molecules, experienced markedly better recovery in their motor performance after a stroke than did normal mice. [Rona] Giffard and Shatz are the senior authors of the Neuron study. To view the paper's abstract, please click here.

Single antibody shrinks variety of human tumors transplanted into mice, study shows
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Irv Weissman
Human tumors transplanted into laboratory mice disappeared or shrank when scientists treated the animals with a single antibody, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The antibody works by masking a protein flag on cancer cells that protects them from macrophages and other cells in the immune system. The scientists achieved the findings with human breast, ovarian, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate cancer samples. It is the first antibody treatment shown to be broadly effective against a variety of human solid tumors, and the dramatic response — including some overt cures in the laboratory animals — has the investigators eager to begin phase-1 and –2 human clinical trials within the next two years. “Blocking this ‘don’t-eat-me’ signal inhibits the growth in mice of nearly every human cancer we tested, with minimal toxicity,” said professor of pathology Irving Weissman, MD, who directs Stanford’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research and Medicine at Stanford. “This shows conclusively that this protein, CD47, is a legitimate and promising target for human cancer therapy.” The antibody treatment also significantly inhibited the ability of the tumors to metastasize throughout the animals’ bodies. ... The research was published online March 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To view the paper's abstract, please click here.

Genetic markers may help predict fertility decline in women
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Renee Reijo Pera
Researchers at the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine have discovered genetic markers that may ultimately allow women to track and predict declining fertility. The study, which was published in the February issue of Human Reproduction, found three particular gene variants that could be associated with the age of onset of fertility decline. Ultimately, this study and further research may allow individual women to know in advance the approximate age when their fertility will decline, allowing them to plan accordingly. “Many women now are delaying childbirth until their mid to late 30s, which is getting very near the edge of the usual fertility window,” said first author Sonya Schuh-Huerta, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar. Some of these women are destined to have diminished fertility by the time they try to have children, but they won’t know that in advance, Schuh-Huerta said. Testing for the number of maturing eggs in the ovary and levels of reproductive hormones can be a good indication of fertility, but women tend not to get these tests until they are already experiencing difficulties with conceiving. “Ultimately, a test for specific genetic markers would be easier and could give them more information and more power to make reproductive decisions,” Schuh-Huerta said. The age of onset of menopause is highly determined by genetics, a fact that many women don’t know, said senior author Renee Reijo Pera, PhD, professor of obstetrics & gynecology. “We did a survey of undergraduates and most didn’t realize that their reproductive biology is relatively fixed,” she said. “They thought that if they didn’t smoke, ate right and exercised they could extend their fertile years.” To view the paper's abstract, please click here.

Imaging study reveals differences in brain function for children with math anxiety
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Vinod Menon
Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown for the first time how brain function differs in people who have math anxiety from those who don’t. A series of scans conducted while second- and third-grade students did addition and subtraction revealed that those who feel panicky about doing math had increased activity in brain regions associated with fear, which caused decreased activity in parts of the brain involved in problem-solving. “The same part of the brain that responds to fearful situations, such as seeing a spider or snake, also shows a heightened response in children with high math anxiety,” said Vinod Menon, PhD, the Stanford professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who led the research. In their new study, published online March 20 in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Menon’s team performed functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans on 46 second- and third-grade students with low and high math anxiety. Outside the fMRI scanner, the children were assessed for math anxiety with a modified version of a standardized questionnaire for adults, and also received standard intelligence and cognitive tests. ... “It’s remarkable that, although the phenomena was first identified over 50 years back, nobody had bothered to ask how math anxiety manifests itself in terms of neural activity,” Menon said. His team’s observations show that math anxiety is neurobiologically similar to other kinds of anxiety or phobias, he said. “You cannot just wish it away as something that’s unreal. Our findings validate math anxiety as a genuine type of stimulus- and situation-specific anxiety.” To view the paper's abstract, please click here.

Researchers boost potency, reduce side effects of IL-2 protein used to treat cancer
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Christopher Garcia
The utility of a naturally occurring protein given, sometimes to great effect, as a drug to treat advanced cancers is limited by the severe side effects it sometimes causes. But a Stanford University School of Medicine scientist has generated a mutant version of the protein whose modified shape renders it substantially more potent than the natural protein while reducing its toxicity. The findings are being published online March 25 in Nature. The protein, known as interleukin-2 or IL-2, is a master regulator of the immune system. It acts as a growth factor for many different kinds of immune cells, including an all-important class called T cells. These cells can both recognize and organize attacks against pathogens or tumors. IL-2 stimulates T cells’ proliferation in response to these threats. That makes it a potent anti-cancer drug. When injected into a patient, it spurs fierce anti-tumor activity. “In a substantial subset — about 7 percent — of patients with advanced metastatic melanomas or kidney cancers, IL-2 treatment actually cures the disease,” said Christopher Garcia, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology and of structural biology and the study’s senior author. That’s an impressive result, considering the failure of most treatments at such a late stage of cancer. ... For this study, Garcia’s group produced a vast variety of mutated versions of the protein, and then, in a test-tube competition, compared the strength of these mutant proteins’ binding to a particular cell-surface receptor, a process that is crucial to the T-cell activation needed to treat cancer. The researchers eventually obtained a mutant that Garcia dubbed “Super-2,” which had more than 300 times the receptor-binding strength of natural IL-2. In subsequent tests designed to assess Super-2’s ability to impede tumor growth, the new molecule outperformed natural IL-2 by a significant margin. To view the paper's abstract, please click here.

Plasmons resonate in atomic-scale metal particles
Materials Science and Engineering Faculty Jennifer Dionne
The physical phenomenon of plasmon resonances in small metal particles has been apparent for centuries. They are visible in the vibrant hues of the great stained-glass windows of the world. More recently, plasmon resonances have been used by engineers to develop new, light-activated cancer treatments and to enhance light absorption in photovoltaics and photocatalysis. "The stained-glass windows of Notre Dame Cathedral and Stanford Chapel derive their color from metal nanoparticles embedded in the glass. When the windows are illuminated, the nanoparticles scatter specific colors depending on the particles' size and geometry " said Jennifer Dionne, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and the senior author of a new paper on plasmon resonances to be published in the journal Nature. In the study, the team of engineers report the direct observation of plasmon resonances in individual metal particles measuring down to one nanometer in diameter, just a few atoms across. "Plasmon resonances at these scales are poorly understood," said Jonathan Scholl, a doctoral candidate in Dionne's lab and first author of the paper. "So, this class of quantum-sized metal nanoparticles has gone largely under-utilized in engineering. Exploring their size-dependent nature could open up some interesting applications at the nanoscale." The research could lead to novel electronic or photonic devices based on excitation and detection of plasmons in these extremely small particles, the engineers said. "Alternatively, there could be opportunities in catalysis, quantum optics, and bio-imaging and therapeutics," added Dionne. To view the paper's abstract, please click here.



April 4, 2012, 4 pm - 5 pm
Li Ka Shing Center, Berg Hall, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN BIOLOGY - "Anna Karenina and the Genetics of Common Disease"
Speaker: Mary-Claire King, PhD, Professor of University of Washington
Baxter Labs
April 5, 2012, 12 pm - 1 pm
Lorry Lokey Bldg, G1002, Stanford, CA
REGENERATIVE MEDICINE SEMINAR SERIES - "Single cell genomics and a personal recombination map" and "I only have eye for ewe: small-molecule inhibitors of the Hedgehog pathway"
Speakers: Stephen Quake, MD/PhD, and James Chen, MD/PhD, Professors of Stanford University
Neurology and Neurosciences
April 9, 2012, 4 pm - 5 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN AGING - "A network perspective on the biology of aging"
Speaker: Daniel Promislow, PhD, Professor of University of Georgia
April 12, 2012, 3:15 pm - 4:15 pm
Clark Auditorium, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN INTERDISCIPLINARY BIOSCIENCES - "Carbon partitioning, metabolism, and cell-wall structure in leaves under elevated CO2 conditions using in vivo 11C and 13C labeling"
Speaker: Jacob Schaefer, PhD, Professor of Washington University in St. Louis



Stanford University
Bio-X at Stanford University
Bio-X Seed Grants
The 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 Bio-X or Stanford University, please contact Dr. Hanwei Li, the Corporate Forum Liaison of Bio-X, 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 02, 2012