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.

The list of 23 awardees for the 6th round of seed grants from 2012 are listed on the Stanford Bio-X website. 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!

** SAVE THE DATE: ON 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, followed by a poster session at the end (poster titles coming soon). The IIP symposiums are always well-attended, with the last one 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.



Immune cells engineered in lab to resist HIV infection, Stanford study shows
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Matthew Porteus

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found a novel way to engineer key cells of the immune system so they remain resistant to infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. A new study describes the use of a kind of molecular scissors to cut and paste a series of HIV-resistant genes into T cells, specialized immune cells targeted by the AIDS virus. The genome editing was made in a gene that the virus uses to gain entry into the cell. By inactivating a receptor gene and inserting additional anti-HIV genes, the virus was blocked from entering the cells, thus preventing it from destroying the immune system, said Matthew Porteus, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “We inactivated one of the receptors that HIV uses to gain entry and added new genes to protect against HIV, so we have multiple layers of protection — what we call stacking,” said Porteus, the study’s principal investigator. “We can use this strategy to make cells that are resistant to both major types of HIV.” He said the new approach, a form of tailored gene therapy, could ultimately replace drug treatment, in which patients have to take multiple medications daily to keep the virus in check and prevent the potentially fatal infections wrought by AIDS. The work was done in the laboratory, and clinical trials would still be needed to determine whether the approach would work as a therapy. “Providing an infected person with resistant T cells would not cure their viral infection,” said Sara Sawyer, PhD, assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Texas-Austin and a co-author of the study. “However, it would provide them with a protected set of T cells that would ward off the immune collapse that typically gives rise to AIDS.” The study was published in the Jan. 22 issue of Molecular Therapy.

Behind recently approved cancer drug, a 30-year history of scientific breakthroughs
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Anthony Oro, Jean Tang, and Matthew Scott

Three years ago, 101-year-old Winnie Bazurto noticed a strange growth on her lower eyelid. She didn't worry about it initially, but in 2012 it started getting bigger, fast — doubling in size every two weeks and growing into the orbit of her right eye, restricting her vision. Diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer, her main concern was that the painful growth would infiltrate the eyeball, possibly causing blindness. Bazurto's options for treatment didn't look good. Although still healthy, her age meant she was not a candidate for the eight-hour surgery necessary to remove the growth or the alternative, six weeks of radiation treatment. But she was reluctant to lose the sight in her right eye and, along with it, much of her independence — not to mention her ability to watch a fastball on the television set. Then a third option emerged: a new drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January 2012 called vismodegib (brand name Erivedge) to treat inoperable basal cell carcinomas. Like most patients prescribed a new drug, Bazurto knew little about the story behind its origins. The Genentech-developed drug is the first class of drugs approved by the FDA that works by inhibiting one of the key regulators in human development: the hedgehog molecular signaling pathway. Considered a landmark in cancer treatment, it's hoped there will be many more hedgehog-inhibiting drugs to come for the treatment of other invasive cancers — not just inoperable basal cell carcinomas like Bazurto's, but pancreatic, esophageal and ovarian cancers as well. *[Both Anthony Oro and Jean Tang were involved in the first clinical trials testing vismodegib on basal cell carcinoma tumors. Matthew Scott is a key player in the history of hedgehog research, connecting the hedgehog pathway with certain cancers.]

With 'snorkel' technique, Stanford vascular surgeons advance safe treatment of complex aortic aneurysms
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Jason Lee and Ronald Dalman

Jason Lee, MD, a vascular surgeon at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and associate professor of vascular surgery at the School of Medicine, collaborated with Ronald Dalman, MD, the Dr. Walter C. Chidester Professor and chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, to help develop and streamline minimally invasive procedures for treating complex aortic aneurysms ... with a combination of stent grafts. He calls [this] "the snorkel technique" because it involves the use of one or more stents that, when deployed into final position, look like snorkels. It is an endovascular procedure, meaning that the stents are inserted into blood vessels with a catheter through a small entry into an artery, rather than through open surgery. Lee is one of the world's most experienced physicians in endovascular repair of complex aneurysms using this technique, which involves placing the snorkel stents next to the main stent to create pathways for blood to reach branch arteries. Lee uses similar combinations of stents to treat aneurysms that sit alongside other aortic branch arteries ranging from the heart down to the legs. ... Lee and Dalman have performed more than 60 snorkel procedures in the past three years and have been recognized internationally for their efforts in improving the technique. ... In addition to the snorkel technique and because of the extensive experience acquired by the Stanford vascular team in treating complex aortic aneurysms, Stanford Hospital was one of the first U.S. hospitals to have access to the Cook Zenith Fenestrated Aortic Endograft to treat complex AAAs near the renal arteries, which supply the kidneys. This stent graft, which was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, has fenestrations, or holes, on the side to provide blood flow to the renal arteries. Selection of hospitals to have unrestricted access to this technology was competitive, and Lee was the first U.S. physician to complete the proctoring and approval process to obtain full access to it.

How methane-sourced polymers could save the world
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Craig Criddle

Perhaps the most exciting project engaging Craig Criddle, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, involves methane – the organic gaseous compound that’s produced in voluminous quantities by wetlands, estuaries, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. It’s useful stuff, in that it’s the major component of natural gas. But it’s also problematic. It is a potent greenhouse gas, manifesting 21 times the heat retention properties of the much-reviled carbon dioxide. A significant amount of money and effort have been put into harnessing methane – a major component of the “biogas” produced at landfills and wastewater treatment plants for energy production. Typically, the compound is combusted in a gas turbine, creating mechanical power that is used by a generator to produce electricity; the heat produced by this process can also be salvaged to run a steam turbine, which yields additional power. That’s good as far as it goes, says Criddle, but biogas has some major drawbacks as an energy source. “The main problem is that the gas produced in landfills and treatment plants is often contaminated with other compounds that damage the mechanical components,” he observes. “That’s why more often than not, the gas is just flared off at the site. In many cases, it’s not cost-effective to use it as a fuel for electricity production.” Criddle has a better idea for biogas: plastics. More specifically, he and a team of Stanford faculty colleagues, students and post-docs advocate using biogas as a feedstock for the production of valuable polymers. The technique relies on a specific group of bacteria known as “methanotrophs”– microorganisms that consume methane. Criddle and his colleagues have been able to enrich for methanotrophs that produce a useful polymer – a polyester-class compound known as polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). The bacteria are cultured in aerobic bioreactors and fed copious amounts of methane; the PHB is produced as minute granules. The “right” bugs can yield up to 60 percent of their mass as PHB. “That is a really impressive conversion efficiency,” says Criddle. “For every three to five kilos of methane, we’re getting one kilo of PHB.”



January 23, 2013, 4 pm - 5 pm
Clark Center Auditorium, Stanford, CA
FRONTIERS IN BIOLOGY -"Programming and reprogramming cell fate"
Presenter: Ken Zaret, UPenn
January 24, 2013, 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Clark Center S360, Stanford, CA
Early Detection Seminar Series - "A Non Coding RNA Revolution in the Cancer Society"
Speaker: George A. Calin, MD, PhD, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer
Cardiovascular Institute
January 29, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
LKSC Bldg, Lecture Hall LK 130, Stanford, CA
Targeting Tnni3K in acute ischemia: Could there actually be hope for a novel therapeutic?
Speaker: Thomas Force, MD, Prof of Med, Prof & Clinical Director, Translational Cntr, Temple University
Microbiology & Immunology
January 30, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
Munzer Auditorium, Stanford, CA
"Tracking immunity in vivo"
Speaker: Richard Locksley, UCSF
MI Seminar
Some Wednesdays 10 am, Oct 2012 - May 2013

An exciting program in medical imaging research

Jan - Dan Spielman - Metabolic Imaging of the Heart using Hyperpolarized 13C MRS

Feb 20 - Jennifer McNab - Initial Applications of 300 mT/m Gradients

April 17 - Edward Shapiro - The History of CT Reseach at Varian- from the mid-70s' to today

May 22 - Anthony Wagner - Cognitive Neuroscience of Remembering: fMRI approaches to Understanding Memory



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: 
January 22, 2013