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.

In 2012, Stanford Bio-X selected 23 new seed grant projects 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.) In addition, SANOFI has also funded 4 new Bio-X IIP Seed Grant projects from round 6!

** On February 25, 2013, Stanford Bio-X held its latest annual IIP Seed Grant Symposium at the Clark Center. It was attended by over 150 people, and the symposium included 8 podium presentations and 116 poster presentations. The podium talks represented research from a wide array of fields (such as gene delivery to interactive gaming in biology to tele-robotic systems to stem cells to hedgehog signal transductions and more), with each project exemplifying the Stanford Bio-X mission of crossing boundaries to bring about interdisciplinary research and solutions in the field of life bioscience. The talks for this symposium are posted here. 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. To date, Stanford Bio-X has a total of 126 Bio-X Fellows.

THIS YEAR, ON JUNE 26TH IN THE CLARK CENTER AUDITORIUM, BIO-X WILL BE ANNOUNCING ITS NEWEST FELLOWS AT THE BIO-X FELLOWS SYMPOSIUM. There will also be four 15-minute oral presentations followed by one-minute spiels from current fellows. Please see below in "EVENTS" to view the complete agenda, or click on the "Bio-X Fellows Symposium" link above.

To view the numerous projects that have been awarded over the years, please click here.


The Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program supports undergraduate research training through an award designed to support interdisciplinary undergraduate summer research projects. The program is an invaluable opportunity for students to conduct hands-on research, learn how to carry out experiments in the laboratory, and develop the skills to read and analyze scientific literature.

To date, 176 students have been awarded the opportunity to participate in the Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Currently, Stanford Bio-X is in its 8th call for applications. This is eligible to Stanford students who wants to work in the labs of Bio-X affiliate faculty.

Participating undergraduates are also required to present poster presentations on the research that they've conducted during the program. Please click here for title lists of past posters that our undergraduates have presented.

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



Brain makes its own version of Valium, scientists discover
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty John Huguenard

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that a naturally occurring protein secreted only in discrete areas of the mammalian brain may act as a Valium-like brake on certain types of epileptic seizures. The protein is known as diazepam binding inhibitor, or DBI. It calms the rhythms of a key brain circuit and so could prove valuable in developing novel, less side-effect-prone therapies not only for epilepsy but possibly for anxiety and sleep disorders, too. The researchers’ discoveries were published May 30 in Neuron. “This is one of the most exciting findings we have had in many years,” said John Huguenard, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences and the study’s senior author. “Our results show for the first time that a nucleus deep in the middle of the brain generates a small protein product, or peptide, that acts just like benzodiazepines.” This drug class includes not only the anti-anxiety compound Valium (generic name diazepam), first marketed in 1965, but its predecessor Librium, discovered in 1955, and the more recently developed sleep aid Halcyon.

Engineered molecules boost immune attack on cancer, researchers say
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Christopher Garcia and Irv Weissman

Building on previous research showing that cancer cells send signals to the immune system to avoid being attacked, Stanford scientists have engineered new molecules that are highly proficient at neutralizing those signals. The molecules dramatically increase the effectiveness of certain existing cancer therapies and may open up other avenues for treating cancer using patients' own immune systems. School of Medicine researchers have previously shown that CD47, a molecule found on the surface of many cancers, acts as a "don't eat me" signal that protects the cancer from roving immune cells called macrophages. The scientists found that when they used drugs to block this "don't eat me" signal, macrophages engulfed and destroyed the cancer cells. More recently, Stanford scientists wondered if they could engineer molecules that block the signal more effectively. They began by modifying a protein called SIRP-alpha, which is found on macrophages and is the natural receptor for CD47. In a paper published online May 30 in Science, a team of scientists working with professors Christopher Garcia, PhD, and Irving Weissman, MD, report that they have engineered new versions of SIRP-alpha that bind much more strongly to CD47 than the natural version of the molecule, making them extremely potent blockers of the "don't eat me" signal.

In clinical trial, scientists hope to train immune system to attack cancer
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Ron Levy

Training our immune systems to fight cancer is an appealing prospect. Why wouldn't we want to launch our own internal army against one of our most-hated foes? But the process is a bit like learning to spot a single traitor in a stadium full of innocent bystanders. After all, at the most basic level, cancer cells are simply our own tissue making bad choices about how to grow and spread. And there's the rub: The immune system's ability to protect against foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses hinges on its ability to differentiate them from our body's own tissues, to which it must not react (a phenomena called immune tolerance). So it's a catch-22 when researchers attempt to prime B and T cells, macrophages and all of our many other immune cells to wipe out cancer cells. Often, what seems to be a promising response is dulled over time as immune cells called T regulatory cells, or Tregs, recognize the cancerous tissue as "self" and call off the attack. Now, Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology at the School of Medicine and pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy, and postdoctoral scholar Aurelien Marabelle, MD, have shown it's possible to perpetuate an anti-cancer immune response in laboratory mice by blocking the activity of Tregs with specific antibodies injected directly into the tumor site. The work, which has resulted in the recent initiation of a phase-1 and -2 clinical trial in humans, was published May 24 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Stanford scientists create novel silicon electrodes that improve lithium-ion battery performance
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Zhenan Bao and Yi Cui

Stanford University scientists have dramatically improved the performance of lithium-ion batteries by creating novel electrodes made of silicon and conducting polymer hydrogel, a spongy substance similar to the material used in soft contact lenses and other household products. Writing in the June 4 edition of the journal Nature Communications, the scientists describe a new technique for producing low-cost, silicon-based batteries with potential applications for a wide range of electrical devices. "Developing rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with high energy density and long cycle life is of critical importance to address the ever-increasing energy storage needs for portable electronics, electric vehicles and other technologies," said study co-author Zhenan Bao, professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. To find a practical, inexpensive material that increases the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries, Bao and her Stanford colleagues turned to silicon – an abundant, environmentally benign element with promising electronic properties. "We've been trying to develop silicon-based electrodes for high-capacity lithium-ion batteries for several years," said study co-author Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. "Silicon has 10 times the charge storage capacity of carbon, the conventional material used in lithium-ion electrodes. The problem is that silicon expands and breaks." Studies have shown that silicon particles can undergo a 400 percent volume expansion when combined with lithium. When the battery is charged or discharged, the bloated particles tend to fracture and lose electrical contact. To overcome these technical constraints, the Stanford team used a fabrication technique called in situ synthesis polymerization that coats the silicon nanoparticles within the conducting hydrogel.



June 13, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
LKSC 120, Stanford, CA
“Discussing medical, legal, & ethical implications of the recent ACMG recommendations on reporting incidental findings in clinical exome and genome sequencing.”
Speakers: Kelly Ormond, M.S., C.G.C., Associate Professor (Teaching) of Genetics at Stanford
Hank Greely, J.D., Professor, Stanford Law School
June 14, 2013, 12 pm - 1 pm
Clark Center S360, Stanford, CA
Two Biophysics Seminar Talks: "Biophysics of coordination and axis specification in early zebrafish development" - Jack Chai, 12:00-12:25pm; "Microfluidic very large scale integration (mVLSI) for femtoliter bioanalytical chemistry" - Ismail Emre Araci, 12:30-12:55pm
Speaker: Jack Chai and Ismail Emre Acraci
Bio-X Fellows Symposium 2013
June 26, 2013 from 2-5 pm in the Clark Center Auditorium

Introduction by Dr. Carla Shatz

On Growth and Form - A Bacterial Perspective
Carolina Tropini (Biophysics)

Using Robotics to Understand How the Brain Coordinates Motion
Samir Menon (Computer Science)

Viral and Molecular Tools to Constrain Gene Delivery in the Brain
Joanna Mattis (Neurosciences)

Optogenetic Control of Pain
Kathryn Montgomery (Bioengineering)

One-minute introduction by fellows and introduction of new Bio-X and Bio-X SIGF Fellows by Dr. Carla Shatz

Reception - Clark Center Courtyard



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: 
June 10, 2013