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.

Last Monday, 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 will be posted online as soon as possible. Recorded talks from previous IIP symposia are uploaded 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.


Annual Symposium

REvolution - Transcending the Past

Bio-X will be hosting its annual symposium on March 12-13, 2012 from 9 am to 5:30 pm on both days in the Clark Center Auditorium. This two-day symposium on modern aspects of evolution will highlight recent developments and prospects for the future in a spectrum of contexts including: microbial evolution in the laboratory, rapid human-driven evolution, and evolution of cancers and immune repertoires within individuals. After a day and a half of general-audience talks, the second afternoon will be an informal workshop with talks by Stanford students and postdoctoral Fellows on future directions in experimental evolution including technological and theoretical advances and hopes.



Individual differences in anthrax susceptibility discovered by scientists
Bio-X affiliated faculty Stanley Cohen
Susceptibility to anthrax toxin is a heritable genetic trait that may vary tremendously among individuals, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Among 234 people studied, the cells of three people were virtually insensitive to the toxin, while the cells of some people were hundreds of times more sensitive than those of others. The findings may have important implications for national security, as people known to be more resistant to anthrax exposure could be effective first-line responders in times of crises. The research also highlights the fact that many lethal pathogens, including HIV, malaria, leprosy and hepatitis, rely on interactions with host genes to infect and replicate within human cells. Inherited differences in the level of expression of these genes can lead to large variations in the relative susceptibility of different individuals to the pathogen. The research was published online Feb. 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The senior author of the report is professor of genetics Stanley N. Cohen, MD, the Kwoh-Ting Li Professor at the School of Medicine. Postdoctoral scholar Mikhail Martchenko, PhD, is the first author. Collaborating in analysis of the data were associate professor of genetics Hua Tang, PhD, and research associate Sophie Candille, PhD. The study was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Nanoshell whispering galleries improve thin solar panels
Bio-X affiliated faculty Yi Cui
Visitors to Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building may have experienced a curious acoustic feature that allows a person to whisper softly at one side of the cavernous, half-domed room and for another on the other side to hear every syllable. Sound is whisked around the semi-circular perimeter of the room almost without flaw. The phenomenon is known as a whispering gallery. In a paper published in Nature Communications, a team of engineers at Stanford describes how it has created tiny hollow spheres of photovoltaic nanocrystalline-silicon and harnessed physics to do for light what circular rooms do for sound. The results, say the engineers, could dramatically reduce materials usage and processing cost. “Nanocrystalline-silicon is a great photovoltaic material. It has a high electrical efficiency and is durable in the harsh sun,” said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford and co-author of the paper. “Both have been challenges for other types of thin solar films.” The downfall of nanocrystalline-silicon, however, has been its relative poor absorption of light, which requires thick layering that takes a long time to manufacture. Whispering galleries: The engineers call their spheres nanoshells. Producing the shells takes a bit of engineering magic. The researchers first create tiny balls of silica — the same stuff glass is made of —and coat them with a layer of silicon. They then etch away the glass center using hydrofluoric acid that does not affect the silicon, leaving behind the all-important light-sensitive shell. These shells form optical whispering galleries that capture and recirculate the light. “The light gets trapped inside the nanoshells,” said Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science engineering at Stanford and a senior author of the paper. “It circulates round and round rather than passing through and this is very desirable for solar applications.”

Synthetic RNA switches as a tool for temporal and spatial control over gene expression
Publication in Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. by Bio-X affiliated faculty Christina Smolke
The engineering of biological systems offers significant promise for advances in areas including health and medicine, chemical synthesis, energy production, and environmental sustainability. Realizing this potential requires tools that enable design of sophisticated genetic systems. The functional diversity of RNA makes it an attractive and versatile substrate for programming sensing, information processing, computation, and control functions. Recent advances in the design of synthetic RNA switches capable of detecting and responding to molecular and environmental signals enable dynamic modulation of gene expression through diverse mechanisms, including transcription, splicing, stability, RNA interference, and translation. Furthermore, implementation of these switches in genetic circuits highlights the potential for building synthetic cell systems targeted to applications in environmental remediation and next-generation therapeutics and diagnostics.

Translational genomics: The challenge of developing cancer biomarkers
Publication in Genome Res Vol 22 No 2 by Bio-X affiliated faculty James Brooks
Early detection and definitive treatment of cancer have been shown to decrease death and suffering in epidemiologic and intervention studies. Application of genomic approaches to many malignancies has produced thousands of candidate biomarkers for detection and prognostication, yet very few have become established in clinical practice. Fundamental issues related to tumor heterogeneity, cancer progression, natural history, and biomarker performance have provided challenges to biomarker development. Technical issues in biomarker assay detection limits, specificity, clinical deployment, and regulation have also slowed progress. The recent emergence of biomarkers and molecular imaging strategies for treatment selection and monitoring demonstrates the promise of cancer biomarkers. Organized efforts by interdisciplinary teams will spur progress in cancer diagnostics.



February 22, 2012, 4 pm - 5 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN BIOLOGY: "Leveraging stem cell and reprogramming approaches to study motor neuron disease"
Speaker: Kevin Eggan, PhD, Professor of Harvard University, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Neurosciences Institute
February 24, 2012, 4 pm - 5 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"Neurotoxic pathways in prion infections"
Speaker: Adriano Aguzzi, MD, Director of Institute of Neuropathology, Zurich
March 1, 2012, 3 - 4 pm
Munzer Auditorium, Beckman Center, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN GENE & MOLECULAR THERAPIES - "Assessing the Relationship Between microRNA & Target Concentration"
Speaker: Brian Brown, Ph.D., Professor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center
Nanotechnology Seminar Series
March 8, 2012, 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
LPCH Freidenrich Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"Protocells: Porous Nanoparticle Supported Lipid Bilayers (aka Protocells) – Versatile Nanocarriers for Drug Delivery"
Speaker: C. Jeffrey Brinker, PhD, Professor of University of New Mexico
Biodesign Program's 2012 From the Innovator's Workbench series featuring
Alex Gorsky, Vice Chairman, Executive Committee, Johnson & Johnson
March 14, 2012, 5:30 - 7:00 pm
Li Ka Shing Berg Hall
291 Campus Drive
Li Ka Shing Building, 2nd Floor
Stanford, CA 94305-5101
For registration information: http://biodesign.stanford.edu/bdn/networking/workbench.jsp
For further information please contact: MARY GORMAN, Biodesign Program, (650)736-1161, marygorman@stanford.edu, http://biodesign.stanford.edu/



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: 
February 21, 2012