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  • 13 Feb 2018 11:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham had $538 million in research expenditures in 2016, and ranked No. 15 nationally among public universities and No. 31 overall in federally funded research in 2016, according to data released by the National Science Foundation.

    “Competition has never been more fierce for research funding, so our increases in funding truly underscore the importance of work being done here,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “UAB will continue to aggressively recruit and support the students, faculty and staff who conduct the transformational work that ensures we stay at the forefront of discovery, making a difference in lives around the world.”

    UAB now ranks sixth among Southeastern universities in federal research expenditures, behind only North Carolina (8), Duke (10), Georgia Tech (11), Vanderbilt (24) and Emory (27). As a state, Alabama received $281.5 million in NIH funding in fiscal year 2016, which makes UAB responsible for more than 85 percent of the state’s NIH-funding dollars.

    UAB researchers have contributed breakthrough scientific research throughout its 49-year history, and this recent year is no different.

    From advancements on the cutting edge of precision medicine research to showing how plants sense the world and securing data sent via voice over internet, to new research showing how a component of neurons may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, UAB continues to produce game-changing scientific breakthroughs throughout its diverse research portfolio.

    The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research also reports that UAB’s National Institutes of Health funding reached $238 million in fiscal year 2016, including $186 million to the School of Medicine. That number is expected to top $195 million in School of Medicine funding in 2017, as the school also exceeded 300 principal investigators for the first time in two decades.

    “UAB is Alabama’s largest single employer, with more than 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $7.15 billion a year; but we have no greater impact than when our innovations improve and save lives,” said Christopher S. Brown, Ph.D., vice president for Research. “We have the right people and priorities to maintain the momentum we have built to ensure we are among the world’s leading comprehensive research universities, and these new data further affirms our efforts.”

    Read more UAB Research news at www.uab.edu/news/research.

    See original article…


  • 6 Feb 2018 12:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BIO Alabama is looking to formalize a life sciences network throughout the state to enhance economic development in an important industry that stretches to nearly every corner of Alabama.

    The state’s industry organization is aligned with the national Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO, the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotech centers and related organizations.

    Peggy Sammon, CEO of GeneCapture Inc. in Huntsville’s HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, is on the BioAlabama board of directors. She outlined plans for BioAlabama to take the lead in helping grow biotech in the state at the Economic Development Association of Alabama Winter Conference earlier this week.


    A key element of that plan is to formalize a relationship between the state’s nine major bioscience assets in the state – UAB, HudsonAlpha, Southern Research, Tuskegee University, Auburn University, Alabama A&M, the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of South Alabama.

    “In every one of those locations, there is some groundbreaking research happening – whether it’s in human health or genetics or plant science,” Sammon said. “There is also a surprising amount of collaboration between these organizations and institutions, so it’s a good time in Alabama to see the bio-focus happening.”

    BIO Alabama fosters economic development in Alabama’s life sciences from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

    In addition to the nearly $1 billion in research dollars coming into these institutions each year, Sammon said investors are putting money behind a number of entrepreneurs starting bioscience companies in the state, and programs like Alabama Launchpad are putting dollars into the industry.

    “The research dollars that pour into the state are a very big part of what’s happening here,” she said. “They are the catalyst that gets a lot of new products to come out of the state.”

    Sammon said Alabama can do more to support the industry and help it grow. She said states like Georgia and Massachusetts have programs and private sector support that Alabama could learn from.

    But, Sammon said, Alabama is already focusing on one important area for the industry to grow.

    “The companies that are coming to Alabama or growing in Alabama are looking for a highly skilled workforce,” she said. “If we look across the state, there are good science and biology programs in a lot of the major universities, of course, but also in a lot of the community colleges, so there is a good drive to bring a workforce into this part of the ecosystem.”

    Local and state economic development groups have identified bioscience as an area where the state is poised to grow.

    “Alabama’s bioscience industry is a vital economic engine for our state, creating high-paying jobs and generating important innovations that improve the quality of life for people here at home and all around the world,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We’re focused on fostering growth in the bioscience sector and collaborating with the state’s research leaders to make that happen.”

    Sammon said BioAlabama is ready to take a lead role in making that growth happen.

    “In the last couple of years, because there has been so much growth in Alabama – in all of the research centers and in commercial development – this is a time where we’re starting to see the ecosystem is actually having a bigger component in BioAlabama,” she said.

    See original article…


  • 6 Feb 2018 12:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Huntsville, Ala. – HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a nonprofit research institute in Huntsville, Ala., will host the second Genomic Medicine Conference March 26-28, 2018.

    The Genomic Medicine Conference is an interdisciplinary and international program where physicians, researchers and other medical professionals will convene at the HudsonAlpha campus to discuss new findings, best practices, and challenges in the full implementation of genomics into clinical care.

    Keynote speakers include Neil Lamb, PhD, HudsonAlpha vice president for Educational Outreach; Nancy Cox, PhD, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Vandana Shashi, MD, MBBS, from Duke University School of Medicine.

    “The conference is going to discuss a variety of genomics topics including new discoveries in rare and common disease, sequencing technologies, ethical considerations and more,” said Lamb, “This is intended to empower clinicians with the information they need to integrate genomics into medical practice.”

    The conference also will feature speakers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine, Emory School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and more.

    In addition, practitioners will have the opportunity receive Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits.

    For more information and to register, visit hudsonalpha.org/genomicmedicineconference/.


  • 6 Feb 2018 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Human peripheral nerves — all the nerves outside of the central nervous system — are protected by the blood-nerve barrier. This is a tight covering of endothelial cells that maintains the microenvironment within the nerves by restricting the amounts or types of water, ions, solutes and nutrients that can reach the axons, or electric cables within the nerves, from the blood circulation system.

    This allows the nerves to function.

    “I describe these endothelial cells as a gate or door that controls what goes into and out of the nerve; it is the gateway between the systemic blood circulation and the peripheral nerves,” said Eroboghene Ubogu, M.D., professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    Little is known about the components that make up this door, and without that knowledge, neurologists like Ubogu are hard-pressed to develop specific treatments for the 20 million to 30 million U.S. patients, and hundreds of millions worldwide, with peripheral nerve disease. “If we don’t understand what makes up this door that allows materials to go in or out, and how the door really works, how can we come up with specific treatments when nerves do not work?” Ubogu said.

    In research published in Scientific Reports, Ubogu and UAB colleagues — for the first time — describe the transcriptome of these specialized cells called endoneurial endothelial cells, finding 12,881 RNA transcripts that define the normal human blood-nerve barrier. These messenger RNAs are the templates for a cell’s building blocks, the proteins that provide structure and function to the living cell.

    Previous research on the blood-nerve barrier tended to look at just one or a few cell components at a time. The transcriptome reveals every component active in normal endoneurial endothelial cells that form the human blood-nerve barrier.

    “It is as if previously we worked before with a little flashlight,” said Ubogu, who has studied the blood-nerve barrier since 2007. “This is a huge, revealing floodlight. For example, I probably knew no more than six components of the tight junctions present at the blood-nerve barrier. With this paper, we came up with 133 components involved in tight and adherens junctions. This is like a dream come true.”

    Knowledge of normal RNA and protein expression in the endoneurial endothelial cells provides an essential blueprint or reference guide. This guide will help physicians and researchers understand how peripheral nerves are kept healthy and help clinicians and medical chemists figure out which transporters are active in endoneurial endothelial cells, so they can design drug treatments that can actually reach the nerves or are prevented from causing toxic damage to nerves. The guide can also direct translational research in peripheral neuropathies by observing how components may be disrupted or altered during disease or injury, and help develop better treatments for chronic pain.

    Ubogu’s study started from normal frozen human sural nerves preserved in the Shin J. Oh Muscle and Nerve Histopathology Laboratory at UAB. The sural nerve, found in the outer calf region of the leg, is commonly biopsied as part of certain peripheral neuropathy workups.

    “I describe these endothelial cells as a gate or door that controls what goes into and out of the nerve; it is the gateway between the systemic blood circulation and the peripheral nerves,” said Ubogu.The UAB team isolated RNA transcripts from the blood-nerve barrier forming microvessels directly from the frozen sural nerve tissue using a specialized technique called laser-capture microdissection. At least 200 microvessels were collected from two female and two male adults who had normal nerve biopsies. The team also isolated RNA from purified endoneurial endothelial cells previously isolated from an adult woman and grown in tissue culture. They isolated RNA from three passages, or early, and eight passages, or late, for this study. The early and late comparison was to make sure the RNA did not change in these cells because of tissue culture.

    RNA from the endoneurial microvessels and endothelial cells was sequenced. For the microvessels from the biopsies, called the in situ blood-nerve barrier, transcripts had to agree for at least three of the four sources. For the endoneurial endothelial cells from tissue culture, called in vitro blood-nerve barrier, transcripts had to agree at both passages. The researchers found 12,881 RNA transcripts that were common to the in situ and in vitro blood-nerve barrier. The tissue-cultured endoneurial endothelial cells acted as a control to correct for possible contamination of the in situ blood-nerve barrier by cells like pericytes and leukocytes present with microvessels during laser-capture microdissection.

    The transcriptome was validated two ways. First, the transcriptome was found to include previously identified vascular endothelial markers, enzymes, scavenger receptors, mitogen receptors, nutrient transporters, cellular adhesion molecules, chemokines, adherens and tight junction, and junction associated molecules. Second, the researchers showed expression, as detected by indirect fluorescent immunohistochemistry, of specific proteins that were identified by this study in the sural nerve endoneurial microvessels of another adult woman with a normal biopsy. This included markers that had and had not been previously identified in these endothelial cells — 31 selected cell membrane, chemokine receptor, cytoskeletal, junctional complex and secreted proteins.

    Ubogu expects a host of translational work to build upon this research.

    Knowing the molecules relevant for growth of blood vessels and formation of intercellular junction complexes could guide therapeutic strategies to repair peripheral nerves after traumatic injury. This knowledge could also help restore and preserve peripheral nerve function in patients with peripheral neuropathies from other reasons, such as diabetes and cancer.Knowledge of the components and regulators of small molecule and macromolecular transport unique to the human blood-nerve barrier can aid development of drugs that can use the array of influx transporters, channels and receptor-mediated transcytosis components to reach the nerves. This is important in developing effective drugs for peripheral neuropathies and treating chronic neuropathic pain, a condition that affects 1 percent to 10 percent of people worldwide. This is crucially important as the world deals with the opioid crisis and seeks better treatments, with fewer side effects, for chronic pain.

    Ubogu says the study provides essential information on the possible determinants of leukocyte trafficking during normal immunosurveillance and the biological networks that may be involved in peripheral nerve innate and adaptive immune responses. This could improve our understanding of how the human blood-nerve barrier responds to injury, viral infections or microbial entry from the bloodstream into peripheral nerves.

    The work could also help us better understand the pathogenesis and targeted treatment of peripheral nerve-restricted autoimmune disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy, two conditions that can lead to loss of productivity and economic independence, chronic pain or disability.

    “The unique resources within the UAB neuromuscular division and the collaboration with the UAB Heflin Center for Genomic Science were essential to this project to figure out the human blood-nerve barrier transcriptome as quickly and comprehensively as we did,” Ubogu said.

    Co-authors with Ubogu of the paper “The human blood-nerve barrier transcriptome” are Steven P. Palladino, E. Scott Helton and Chaoling Dong, Neuromuscular Immunopathology Research Laboratory, Division of Neuromuscular Disease, UAB Department of Neurology; and Preti Jain, Michael R. Crowley, Ph.D., and David K. Crossman, Ph.D., Heflin Center for Genomic Science, UAB Department of Genetics.

    Support came from National Institutes of Health grant NS075212 and UAB institutional funds.

    See original article…


  • 23 Jan 2018 12:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Auburn University President Steven Leath is establishing a new graduate fellowship program to support research and innovation by Auburn doctoral students, while enhancing their careers as academic and societal leaders.

    The Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship program will provide $3 million over three years, consisting of $1 million from the university and $2 million from the respective colleges, schools and departments in which the fellows are enrolled.

    “The fellowships are a significant part of the university’s strategic plan to conduct and bring impactful research to the national forefront,” Leath said. “We expect the program to attract top students already at Auburn as well as those from across the world. Fellowship recipients will work with renowned faculty in established and emerging areas of excellence.”

    A minimum of 33 new fellowships will be available each fall beginning in fall 2018. Each award will be for three years and will consist of a $10,000 Presidential Fellowship, a minimum $5,000 Dean’s Fellowship and a minimum $15,000 graduate research assistantship, along with tuition and fees. Additional financial support may be provided in subsequent years by the fellow’s department and college or school.

    “These fellowship will be used as a tool to recruit outstanding students from across the country to study in any doctoral degree program on campus,” said George Flowers, dean of the Graduate School. “We expect that these students will have a major positive impact on our research and scholarship.”

    Leath and Flowers developed the program with Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and John Mason, Auburn University vice president for research and economic development.

    Proposal criteria and other program information are available at www.graduate.auburn.edu/presidential. The deadline for nominations is March 1.

    See original article…


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