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.

WE ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF REVIEWING THE 118 BIO-X INTERDISCIPLINARY INITIATIVE SEED GRANT LETTERS OF INTENT THAT WE'VE RECEIVED FOR OUR 6TH ROUND. 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 from the first 5 rounds, 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.



New smartphone scans from Stanford could prevent needless oral cancer deaths
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Manu Prakash
Thousands of people die needlessly each year in developing countries from oral cancers that could have been detected early with regular dental checkups. But with fewer than one dentist per 100,000 people in many of the world’s rural areas, these checkups are not an option. Now an ultra-low-cost smartphone device being developed at Stanford may enable early diagnosis of these preventable deaths, with no dentist visits required. Assistant bioengineering professor Manu Prakash, PhD, has developed a way to use smartphones to create detailed images of the oral cavity and screen patients’ mouths for suspicious lesions. The device, which is about the size of a pack of gum, could make it possible for millions of people who live in remote areas to get this imaging done as easily as snapping a photo on a smartphone. Prakash’s oral cavity scanner, called OScan, consists of a mouth positioner, a circuit board and two rows of fluorescent-light-emitting diodes. It attaches to any smartphone’s built-in camera, and allows an operator — with a quick swipe — to take a high-resolution, panoramic image of a person’s complete mouth cavity. Illuminated by the device’s blue fluorescent light, malignant cancer lesions are easily detected as dark spots. Images can be sent wirelessly to health workers, dentists or oral surgeons for diagnosis, anywhere in the world. The device is designed for mass production, with an estimated material cost of just a few dollars.

Scientists show that lab-made heart cells can be ideal model for disease research, drug testing
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Joseph Wu
Heart-like cells made in the laboratory from the skin of patients with a common cardiac condition contract less strongly than similarly created cells from unaffected family members, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The cells also exhibit abnormal structure and respond only dully to the wave of calcium signals that initiate each heartbeat. The finding used induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cell technology to create heart-muscle-like cells from the skin of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, which is one of the leading causes of heart failure and heart transplantation in the United States. It adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that iPS cells can faithfully reflect the disease status of the patients from whom they are derived. Using the newly created diseased and normal cells, the researchers were able to directly observe for the first time the effect of a common beta blocker drug, as well as validate the potential usefulness of a gene therapy approach currently in clinical trials. “Primary human cardiac cells are difficult to obtain and don’t live long under laboratory conditions,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology. Instead, researchers have relied on studies of cells from rodent hearts, which beat much more quickly, to understand more about human heart disease. “Now we’ve created heart cells from iPS cells derived from skin that allow us to study in detail the mechanisms of a common cardiac disease and how these cells respond to clinical interventions.” Wu is the senior author of the research, published April 18 in Science Translational Medicine. Postdoctoral scholar Ning Sun, MD, PhD, is the first author. The work is the latest in a type of research that’s sometimes referred to as “disease-in-a-dish” studies. Using iPS technology, other researchers have created stem cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease, Marfan syndrome and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, among others.

Study points to potential treatment for stroke
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Marion Buckwalter
Stanford University School of Medicine neuroscientists have demonstrated, in a study published online April 24 in Stroke, that a compound mimicking a key activity of a hefty, brain-based protein is capable of increasing the generation of new nerve cells, or neurons, in the brains of mice that have had strokes. The mice also exhibited a speedier recovery of their athletic ability. These results are promising, because the compound wasn’t administered to the animals until a full three days after they had suffered strokes, said the study’s senior author, Marion Buckwalter, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences. This means that the compound works not by limiting a stroke’s initial damage to the brain, but by enhancing recovery. This is of critical significance, said Buckwalter, a practicing clinical neurologist who often treats recently arrived stroke patients in Stanford Hospital’s intensive care unit. “No existing therapeutic agents today enhance recovery from stroke,” Buckwalter said. “The only approved stroke drug, tissue plasminogen activator, can bust up clots that initially caused the stroke but does nothing to stimulate the restoration of brain function later.” Furthermore, to be effective, tPA has to be given within four and a half hours after a stroke has occurred, she added. “In real life, many people don’t get to the hospital that quickly. They may live alone or have their stroke while sleeping, or they and the people close to them didn’t recognize the stroke’s symptoms well enough to realize they’d just had one.” Looking for an alternative, Buckwalter chose to focus on a compound called LM22A-4, which had shown promise in previous research. ... “This small molecule stimulates the brain’s own stem cells to form new neurons and therefore may be achieving many of the same things a stem-cell transplant would achieve, albeit with a less spectacular technology,” said Frank Longo, MD, PhD, professor and chair of neurology and neurological sciences and a co-author of the study. “It represents an entirely new approach for treating conditions for which we have nothing now.”

Anxiety increases cancer severity in mice, study shows
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Firdaus Dhabhar
Worrywarts, fidgety folk and the naturally nervy may have a real cause for concern: accelerated cancer. In a new study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, anxiety-prone mice developed more severe cancer then their calm counterparts. The study, published online April 25 in PLoS ONE, found that after hairless mice were dosed with ultraviolet rays, the nervous ones — with a penchant for reticence and risk aversion — developed more tumors and invasive cancer. Consistent anxiety also came with sensitivity to chronic stress and a dampened immune system. Though other researchers have already linked chronic stress to higher risks for cancer and other maladies, the study is the first to biologically connect the personality trait of high anxiety to greater cancer threats. “Anxiety may be defined as increased sensitivity to physically existent, or non-existent but perceived or anticipated, stressors,” said stress expert and immunologist Firdaus Dhabhar, PhD, first author of the study. Dhabhar’s previous work has investigated the balance of “good” and “bad” stress. Short-lived stressors — like being chased by a lion, or giving a weighty presentation to your boss — can actually boost your immune system by preparing your body for battle. But constant stress, such as caring for a disabled loved one, breaks down the body’s ability to fight off disease over time, he said. The question is: How much stress is too much? Because stress responses vary between individuals, Dhabhar turned to understanding the link between base-level anxiety and actual stress.

$2.5 million grant for deeper data mining goes to Butte
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Atul Butte
Atul Butte, MD, PhD, associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics, has received a four-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The new funds will be used to identify relationships among myriad diseases by analyzing massive amounts of biomolecular and clinical data resident in public repositories. Butte’s team pairs the abundant data now available from gene-expression, genetics and proteomics studies and the vast amounts of available information on biomarkers and drug targets for numerous disease indications. “There is now an opportunity to integrate these data into a unified, globally coherent representation of human disease,” said Butte, who is also director of the Center for Pediatric Bioinformatics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “This will help us come up with new diagnostics and therapeutics.”

Social factors better indicators of early death risk than skin color, geography, study shows
Faculty of Medicine Mark Cullen
In a novel study of health disparities in the United States, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have identified 22 socioeconomic and environmental variables that together are better indicators of early death than are race or geography. The findings upend long-held beliefs that where you live and the color of your skin are the best markers for how long you may live. The innovative analysis shows that when factors related to local social conditions — including education, income and job — are controlled for, health differences based on being black or white, urban or rural, virtually disappear. The study, published online April 17 in PLoS ONE, examined data about the probability of survival to age 70 for every county of sufficient size in the nation, classified by sex and race. It then considered how a number of other factors affect those premature mortality results. “Geographic and racial disparities,” said first author Mark Cullen, MD, “are best understood as related to disparities in education, occupations and the like, which are strongly associated with outcomes in every county we studied, whether it was large, small, urban, rural, Southern or not.” Cullen, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of General Medical Disciplines, added: “While there is an enormous survival difference between some counties and others, it is the social and environmental characteristics of a given county and its population that matter the most.”



Cardiovascular Institute
May 1, 2012, 12 pm - 1 pm
Li Ka Shing Center, Paul Berg Hall, Stanford, CA
"Whole-Heart Modeling: Applications to Cardiac Electrophysiology and Electromechanics"
Speaker: Natalia Trayanova, PhD, Professor of Johns Hopkins University
Cancer Biology
May 3, 2012, 12 pm - 1 pm
Munzer Auditorium, Beckman Center, Stanford, CA
"Recurrent gene fusions in common solid tumors: implications for personalized medicine"
Speakers: Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, Professor of University of Michigan
May 10, 2012, 3:15 pm - 4:15 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN INTERDISCIPLINARY BIOSCIENCES - "Protein S-nitrosylation and potential for therapeutic allostery"
Speakers: Jonathan Stamler, MD, Professor of Case Western Reserve University
Neurology and Neurosciences
May 14, 2012, 4 pm - 5 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"The stress of misfolded proteins in aging and disease"
Speaker: Richard Morimoto, PhD, Professor of Northwestern University



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 30, 2012