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.


Bio-X Director Carla Shatz Honored with Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Developmental Psychobiology

Dr. Carla Shatz, Director of Bio-X and Sapp Family Provostial Professor in Neurobiology, has been awarded the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D., Prize for her pioneering achievements in the understanding of early brain development, her leadership in the field of neuroscience, and her track record of mentorship. Dr. Shatz's work has advanced understanding of fundamental principles of early brain development, and also has important implications of understanding how the visual system refines its connections.

The Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Development Psychobiology recognizes researchers who have advanced our understanding of the developmental processes of mind, brain, and behavior that contribute to normal development and of the origins of mental illness. The prize is presented jointly every two years by the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Shatz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and was recently elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London. To read more about Dr. Shatz and the Sackler Prize, please click here or here.


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, 23 new seed grant projects were selected 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.

** UPDATE: Sanofi funds 4 new Bio-X IIP Seed Grant projects from round 6!

** SAVE THE DATE: THIS COMING MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2013, STANFORD BIO-X WILL BE HOLDING ITS NEXT ANNUAL IIP SEED GRANT SYMPOSIUM AT THE CLARK CENTER. The symposium will include 8 podium presentations (or see below under "EVENTS"), followed by a poster session to conclude the event. The IIP symposiums are always well-attended, with the last one in August having over 200 attendants. 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.

** On Thursday, June 21, 2012, our 18 newest Bio-X Fellowship awardees were announced at the BIO-X FELLOWS SYMPOSIUM. The symposium also consisted of four 15-minute presentations and thirty-five 1-minute research introductions that truly demonstrated the synergy of different yet distinctive disciplines, merged together to address various life bioscience questions. To date, we now have a total of 126 Bio-X Fellows. 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.



Antibody hinders growth of Gleevec-resistant gastrointestinal tumors in lab tests, researchers say
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Matt van de Rijn and Irv Weissman

An antibody that binds to a molecule on the surface of a rare but deadly tumor of the gastrointestinal tract inhibits the growth of the cancer cells in mice, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The effect remains even when the cancer cells have become resistant to other treatments, and the findings may one day provide a glimmer of hope for people with the cancer, known as gastrointestinal stromal tumor, or GIST. The scientists hope to move into human clinical trials of the antibody within two years. The antibody’s target is a receptor called KIT, which is often mutated in patients with the cancer. When mutated, KIT sends a continuous stream of messages into the cell urging it to grow uncontrollably. The Stanford researchers found that the antibody reduces the amount of KIT on the surface of the cancer cells and stimulates immune cells called macrophages to kill the rogue cells. Currently, people with GIST are often treated first with surgery and then with the drug imatinib, marketed as Gleevec — a small molecule that also targets KIT. The treatment, which was approved for GIST in 2002, has been remarkably successful: It has increased the average survival time of many people with advanced disease from about 18 months to about five years. It was the first targeted small molecule inhibitor that proved effective against a solid tumor, but its effect is temporary. “Gleevec, or imatinib, marked a paradigm shift in our understanding about cancer treatment and sparked much additional research into these inhibitors,” said Matt van de Rijn, MD, PhD, professor of pathology. “However, a new mutation almost always occurs over time in KIT that renders the tumor insensitive to the drug. We’ve found that treatment of these resistant cells with an antibody targeting KIT slows the growth of human GIST cells in cell culture and in animals, and increases their chances of being removed by the immune system.” The researchers believe it may be possible that the anti-KIT antibody treatment could be used as an alternative to, or even in combination with, imatinib or other small-molecule or antibody-based therapies to provide better control of the cancer.

Immune systems of healthy adults ‘remember’ germs to which they’ve never been exposed, Stanford study finds
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Mark Davis

It’s established dogma that the immune system develops a “memory” of a microbial pathogen, with a correspondingly enhanced readiness to combat that microbe, only upon exposure to it — or to its components though a vaccine. But a discovery by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers casts doubt on that dogma. In a path-breaking study published online Feb. 7 in Immunity, the investigators found that over the course of our lives, CD4 cells — key players circulating in blood and lymph whose ability to kick-start the immune response to viral, bacterial, protozoan and fungal pathogens can spell the difference between life and death — somehow acquire memory of microbes that have never entered our bodies. Several implications flow from this discovery, said the study’s senior author, Mark Davis, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and director of Stanford’s Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection. In the study, newborns’ blood showed no signs of this enhanced memory, which could explain why young children are so much more vulnerable to infectious diseases than adults. Moreover, the findings suggest a possible reason why vaccination against a single pathogen, measles, appears to have reduced overall mortality among African children more than can be attributed to the drop in measles deaths alone. And researchers may have to rethink the relevance of experiments conducted in squeaky-clean facilities on mice that have never been exposed to a single germ in their lives. “It may even provide an evolutionary clue about why kids eat dirt,” said Davis. “The pre-existing immune memory of dangerous pathogens our immune systems have never seen before might stem from our constant exposure to ubiquitous, mostly harmless micro-organisms in soil and food and on our skin, our doorknobs, our telephones and our iPod earbuds.”

Researchers identify cells that predict onset of graft-versus-host disease in men receiving bone marrow transplants from female donors
Medicine Faculty David Miklos

Stanford University School of Medicine investigators have identified a clutch of cells that — if seen in a male patient’s blood after receiving a brand-new immune system in the form of a bone-marrow transplant from a female donor — herald the onset of chronic graft-versus-host disease, or cGVHD. In this devastating syndrome, the patient’s tissues come under a vicious and enduring assault by the transplanted cells. “The overwhelming majority of patients who have these cells in their blood either have or will develop cGVHD within one to three months,” said David Miklos, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and senior author of the new study, which will be published online Feb. 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now there have been no good predictive indicators for the onset of cGVHD, he said. The discovery of this easily measured marker in the blood could help guide new therapies designed to mitigate or prevent cGVHD, the primary adverse outcome of transplantation of bone marrow from one person to another.

The spark within: light-emitting bioprobe fits in a single cell
Electrical Engineering Faculty Jelena Vuckovic

If engineers at Stanford have their way, biological research may soon be transformed by a new class of light-emitting probes small enough to be injected into individual cells without harm to the host. Welcome to biophotonics, a discipline at the confluence of engineering, biology and medicine in which light-based devices – lasers and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) – are opening up new avenues in the study and influence of living cells. The team described their probe in a paper published online February 13 by the journal Nano Letters. It is the first study to demonstrate that sophisticated engineered light resonators can be inserted inside cells without damaging the cell. Even with a resonator embedded inside, a cell is able to function, migrate and reproduce as normal. ... “Devices like the photonic cavities we have built are quite possibly the most diverse and customizable ingredients in photonics,” said the paper’s senior author, Jelena Vuckovic, a professor of electrical engineering. “Applications span from fundamental physics to nanolasers and biosensors that could have profound impact on biological research.” At the cellular level, a nanobeam acts like a needle able to penetrate cell walls without injury. Once inserted, the beam emits light, yielding a remarkable array of research applications and implications. While other groups have shown that it is possible to insert simple nanotubes and electrical nanowires into cells, nobody had yet realized such complicated optical components inside biological cells. “We think this is quite a dramatic shift from existing applications and will enable expanded opportunities for understanding and influencing cellular biology,” said the paper’s first author Gary Shambat, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering. Shambat works at the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab directed by Vuckovic.



February 21, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
Beckman-Munzer Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"Unlocking Autism: Massively Parallel Strategies & Shifting Genetic Paradigms"
Speaker: Brian O'Roak, PhD, University of Washington
Cardiovascular Institute
February 26, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
LKSC 2nd Floor, Paul Berg Hall, Stanford, CA
"Role of Telomere Dysfunction in Cardiac Failure in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy"
Speaker: Helen Blau, PhD, Stanford
Microbiology & Immunology
February 27, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
Munzer Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"Viral mini-organelles for genomic RNA replication: structure, assembly and function"
Speaker: Paul Ahlquist, PhD, Univ. of Wisconsin
Neurosciences Institute
February 28, 2013, 2 pm - 3 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"Genetic Control of Memory Circuits"
Speaker: Mark Mayford, PhD, Scripps Research Institute
Stanford Hospital & Clinics
March 4, 2013, 7:30 am - 4 pm
Li Ka Shing Center, 291 Campus Dr., 2nd Fl, Berg Hall, Stanford, CA
Multiple presenters, including:
Jaimie M. Henderson
Helen Bronte-Stewart
Sean C. Mackey
Kim Butts-Pauly
Gary K. Steinberg
Leigh R. Hochberg
Paul S.A. Kalanithi
Krishna V. Shenoy
William B. Hurlbut
(Limited space available; for more information, please call 650-723-1323.)
Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Symposium
Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program grant awardees will give fifteen-minute presentations at the symposium. A poster session will be held during a post symposium reception, where students involved in interdisciplinary research will present their work.


Generation of Neurons from Fibroblasts with Direct Gene Delivery
Marius Wernig (Pathology)
Tobias Meyer (Chemical & Systems Biology)

Founding the Bio-X.Game Center for Education and Large Scale Science
Ingmar Riedel-Kruse (Bioengineering)
Rhiju Das (Biochemistry)
Daniel Schwartz (School of Education)

Tele-Robotic System for Real-Time Soft-Tissue Image Guidance of Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy
Dimitre Hristov (Radiation Oncology)
J. Kenneth Salisbury (Computer Science)
Daniel Chang (Radiation Oncology)

Rationally Engineered Sensors of Millisecond Neuronal Activity
Michael Lin (Pediatrics)
Mark Schnitzer (Applied Physics)

Biophysical Control of Adult Stem Cell Fate
Jill Helms (Surgery-Plastic and Reconstructive)
Sarah Heilshorn (Materials Science and Engineering)
John Brunski (Surgery-Plastic and Reconstructive)

Neuropilins in Hedgehog Signal Transduction
Matthew Scott (Developmental Biology)
Jennifer Cochran (Bioengineering)

Molecular and Electromechanical Methods for Rejuvenation
Juan Santiago (Mechanical Engineering)
Robert Sapolsky (Biology / Neurology & Neurological Sciences)
Helen Blau (Chemical and Systems Biology)

Precise Design of Synthetic Multicellular Communities using Optical Control
Kerwyn Casey Huang (Bioengineering)
Devaki Bhaya (Plant Biology)

Closing comments

Reception and poster session (Nexus Cafe)



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: 
February 20, 2013