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
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.
THIS YEAR, IN OUR 6TH ROUND OF SEED GRANTS, WE'VE RECEIVED 118 LETTERS OF INTENT (LOIs), AND WE'RE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF REVIEWING THE SELECTED LOIs, WHICH WILL HAVE FULL PROPOSALS AS PART OF THEIR SEED GRANT APPLICATIONS. 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.
Each year, Bio-X holds 2 annual IIP symposia which showcases the awarded seed grant projects. The most current symposium was held on February 13, 2012 at the Clark Center, and 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 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.
** Last week on Thursday June 21, 2012, our 18 newest Bio-X Fellowship awardees were just 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.
Protein–inorganic hybrid nanoﬂowers
Publication in Nature Nanotechnology by Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Richard Zare
Figure to grace the cover of the journal for the July 2012 edition
Abstract: Flower-shaped inorganic nanocrystals have been used for applications in catalysis and analytical science, but so far there have been no reports of 'nanoflowers' made of organic components. Here, we report a method for creating hybrid organic-inorganic nanoflowers using copper (II) ions as the inorganic component and various proteins as the organic component. The protein molecules form complexes with the copper ions, and these complexes become nucleation sites for primary crystals of copper phosphate. Interaction between the protein and copper ions then leads to the growth of micrometre-sized particles that have nanoscale features and that are shaped like flower petals. When an enzyme is used as the protein component of the hybrid nanoflower, it exhibits enhanced enzymatic activity and stability compared with the free enzyme. This is attributed to the high surface area and confinement of the enzymes in the nanoflowers.
Study explains how stress can boost immune system
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Member Firdaus Dhabhar
A study spearheaded by a Stanford University School of Medicine scientist has tracked the trajectories of key immune cells in response to short-term stress and traced, in great detail, how hormones triggered by such stress enhance immune readiness. The study, conducted in rats, adds weight to evidence that immune responsiveness is heightened, rather than suppressed as many believe, by the so-called “fight-or-flight” response. The study’s findings provide a thorough overview of how a triad of stress hormones affects the main cell subpopulations of the immune system. They also offer the prospect of, someday, being able to manipulate stress-hormone levels to improve patients’ recovery from surgery or wounds or their responses to vaccines. You’ve heard it a thousand times: Stress is bad for you. And it’s certainly true that chronic stress, lasting weeks and months, has deleterious effects including, notably, suppression of the immune response. But short-term stress — the fight-or-flight response, a mobilization of bodily resources lasting minutes or hours in response to immediate threats — stimulates immune activity, said lead author Firdaus Dhabhar, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a member of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection.
NIH awards $2.1M to train scholars on biostatistics of personalized medicine
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Members Robert Tibshirani, Richard Olshen, and Chiara Sabati
The National Institutes of Health has awarded Stanford a $2.1 million grant to expand its PhD training program in the field of biostatistics for personalized medicine. Jointly administered by the Department of Statistics and the medical school’s Department of Health Research and Policy, this program will address the growing shortage of biostatisticians proficient in skills for analyzing the vast amounts of health data being generated by sequencers, microarrays and electronic medical records. Funds for the training program will be awarded over five years, allowing the number of PhD candidates in the Statistics Department to grow from 12 to 16 students. “The promise of personalized medicine, where treatments are tailored to an individual’s unique genetic makeup and health history, can only be realized if we can put the best minds to work on these large and complex data-analytic problems,” said Robert Tibshirani, PhD, professor of health research and policy and of statistics, who will lead the training program.
Opiates' side effects rooted in patients' genetics, study shows
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Member Martin Angst
Genetics play a significant role in determining which patients will suffer the most from the disturbing side effects of opiates, commonly prescribed painkillers for severe to moderate pain, according to a new Stanford University School of Medicine study, which pinpoints nausea, slowed breathing and potential for addiction as heritable traits. "One of the most hated side effects of these opiates, nausea, is strongly inherited," said Martin Angst, MD, professor of anesthesia and one of two principal investigators for the new study, which explores individual variations in the response to opiate use. The study was published June 20 in Anesthesiology. Genetics also play a likely role in determining which patients will suffer from itchiness and sedation associated with the use of these powerful medications, which include morphine, methadone and oxycodone. "The study is a significant step forward in efforts to understand the basis of individual variability in response to opioids and to eventually personalize opioid treatment plans for patients," said Angst, director of the Stanford Human Pain Research Laboratory. "Our findings strongly encourage the use of downstream molecular genetics to identify patients who are more likely or less likely to benefit from these drugs — to help make decisions on how aggressive you want to be with treatment, how carefully you monitor patients and whether certain patients are suitable candidates for prolonged treatment."
Study shows common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disrupts brain function in healthy, older women, but not men
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Member Michael Greicuis
A team led by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine has found that the most common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease disrupts brain function in healthy, older women but has little impact on brain function in healthy, older men. Women harboring the gene variant, known to be a potent risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, show brain changes characteristic of the neurodegenerative disorder that can be observed before any outward symptoms manifest. Both men and women who inherit two copies (one from each parent) of this gene variant, known as ApoE4, are at extremely high risk for Alzheimer’s. But the double-barreled ApoE4 combination is uncommon, affecting only about 2 percent of the population, whereas about 15 percent of people carry a single copy of this version of the gene. The Stanford researchers demonstrated for the first time the existence of a gender distinction among outwardly healthy, older people who carry the ApoE4 variant. In this group, women but not men exhibit two telltale characteristics that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease: a signature change in their brain activity, and elevated levels of a protein called tau in their cerebrospinal fluid. One implication of the study, published June 13 in the Journal of Neuroscience, is that men revealed by genetic tests to carry a single copy of ApoE4 shouldn’t be assumed to be at elevated risk for Alzheimer’s, a syndrome afflicting about 5 million people in the United States and nearly 30 million worldwide. The new findings also may help explain why more women than men develop this disease, said Michael Greicius, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences and medical director of the Stanford Center for Memory Disorders.
Researcher identifies unusual 'altruistic' stem cell behavior with possible link to cancer
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty Member Dean Felsher & School of Medicine Postdoctoral Scholar Bikul Das
When most groups of mammalian cells are faced with a shortage of nutrients or oxygen, the phrase “every man for himself” is more apt than “all for one, one for all.” Unlike colonies of bacteria, which often cooperate to thrive as a group, mammalian cells have never been observed to help one another out. But a new study led by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine has shown that certain human embryonic stem cells, in times of stress, produce molecules that not only benefit themselves, but also help nearby cells survive. “Altruism has been reported among bacterial populations and among humans and other animals, like monkeys and elephants,” said Stanford postdoctoral scholar Bikul Das, MBBS, PhD. “But in mammalian cells — at the cellular level — the idea of altruism has never been described before.” Das is the lead author of a paper, published online June 11 in Stem Cells, documenting altruistic behavior by human embryonic stem cells, or hESCs. While altruism is generally thought of as a virtue, it can have a downside for hESCs: The altruistic cells appear to be more prone to accumulating mutations, a sign that they could lead to cancers. A better understanding of hESC altruism could provide new insights into cancer therapies, as well as improving scientists’ ability to develop safe and effective stem cell treatments for other diseases.
June 26, 2012, 12 pm - 1 pm
Li Ka Shing Center, Paul Berg Hall, Stanford, CA
“Integrative Genomics of Statin Response”
Speaker: Ronald Krauss, MD, Senior Scientist, Director of Atherosclerosis Research
June 28, 2012, 12 pm - 1 pm
Munzer Auditorium, Beckman Center, Stanford, CA
"Keeping sisters together: understanding the mechanisms that ensure genome stability during gamete production in C. elegans"
Speaker: Aaron Severson, PhD, Research Associate Specialist of University of CA, Berkeley
June 29, 2012, 7 am - 7:30 am
Li Ka Shing Center, Room 130, Stanford, CA
“Optogenetic neuromodulation in primate motor cortex”
Speaker: Paul Kalanithi, MD, Senior Resident, Dept of Neurosurgery
August 27, 2012
Clark Center, Stanford, CA
SAVE THE DATE! - Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Symposium
Speakers to be announced soon!
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|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 email@example.com, or Dr. Heideh Fattaey, the Executive Director of Bio-X Operations and Programs, at 650-799-1608 or firstname.lastname@example.org.