MU, WVU, business officials gather for Bioscience Summit

The following article was taken from the website of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. It highlights the work of many of the professors researching in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Marshall University.


Dr. Nalini SantanamCHARLESTON – There is no shortage of exciting research going on in the laboratories at Marshall University. Scientists and technicians from this region and from around the world have converged at Marshall to do research on topics such as heart disease, cancer and many others. Their research might one day save a life, or at least make someone’s life better.Their work might not be easy for the layperson to understand, but university and business officials are working diligently to help ensure the work West Virginia’s scientists are doing also results in three simple words: dollars and cents.

The economic potential for bioscience research in West Virginia is still hard to grasp, but there is a lot happening already and much optimism for the future.

“We are looking at a pipeline of commercial opportunities coming out of research being done in West Virginia,” said John Maher, vice president for research at Marshall University.

Officials from Marshall, West Virginia University and several business related to the bioscience industry gathered last week for the Second Annual West Virginia Bioscience Summit, held Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston.

“This conference is a unique opportunity for people interested in the biosciences to get together and get an update on the status of the industry over the last year,” said Derek Gregg, CEO of Vandalia Research here in Huntington and chairman of BioWV.

The summit featured presentations from West Virginia University, Marshall, Mountwest Community & Technical College, Vandalia Research, Protea, TRAX Biodiscovery, and others to talk about what their organizations have accomplished over the past year.

“This also allows new collaborations and partnerships to be developed,” Gregg said. “Additionally, we had substantial representation from out-of-state organizations looking for new partners and opportunities.”

The biosciences in West Virginia are growing rapidly and the state’s credibility is increasing in the United States and around the world, Gregg said.

“We are spinning out new enterprises, and some of those enterprises are raising capital and hiring people,” he said. “Protea was recently recognized world-wide as having one of the top 10 innovations of 2011. They now employee over 50 people.”

Four companies are now being housed and supported at Vandalia Research’s facility in Huntington, including Progenesis, Maven Analytical and Parabon Nanolabs. These companies sell to pharmaceutical, chemical and diagnostic companies around the world, Gregg said.

Marshall has a lot of exciting research under way right now, said Dr. Richard Niles, senior associate dean for Research and Graduate Education at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Here are some examples:

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta is looking at lung cancer and at how capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells in animals.

Dr. Nalini Santanam is looking at the effects of age and gender on the fat around the heart, and at oxidative stress in endometriosis.

Dr. Eric Blough of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems has 16 different projects going on.

Dr. Jingwei Xie is working with glass tubes for bone tissue engineering.

Dr. Hongwei Yu is working on genetic regulation of biofilm formation by pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause disease in animals.

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio is doing cancer research that involves gene therapy using microbubbles for delivery of a virus.

Niles is co-founder with Yu on the biotech business Progenesis, which provides natural, biodegradable polymers for industrial and medical applications through genetic engineering of bacteria. He talked about his experience of starting a biotech business at Wednesday’s Summit.

The universities are working to help others make discoveries and translate them into businesses as well. And the state is helping.

Both Marshall and WVU have received state funding for research through the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, providing $35 million to WVU and $15 million to Marshall for research, provided they come up with a match. WVU has reached its goal and Marshall has $9.4 million secured in gifts and pledges and the potential to reach, or go beyond, its goal very shortly, Maher said.

The universities also have attracted a lot of federal grant funding, all of which rolls over in the local economies as it provides high-paying jobs that attract scientists to the community.

Also in Huntington, Mountwest Community and Technical College is hard at work training students to become biological technicians, environmental science and environmental protection technicians, biomedical laboratory technicians and health technicians, said Jean Chappel, dean of Allied Health at MCTC.

It has a state-of-the-art lab where they can learn molecular diagnostics, tissue culturing, electrophoresis and use a digital fluorescent microscope.

MCTC also works on community outreach, not only targeting science teachers but high school and middle school students. It has a camp where “they’re isolating DNA just like they do on CSI,” Chappel said.

Over the course of one week, students’ aspirations might change from working a minimum wage job to becoming a PhD scientist, she said.

The college wants to help the state have “a well-rounded, educated workforce that wants to stay right here,” Chappel said.

It’s great to see several different parties working toward the same goal, said Laura Gibson, deputy director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and a professor at WVU.

“The greatest measure of our success is really how we partner,” she said.

Capital formation, attraction and retention of talent, and community development are focus areas for Bio West Virginia in the coming years, Gregg said.

“Incentivizing investment in this area is critical,” he said, “Nearly all of our neighboring states have a program or programs for stimulating investment in high-technology, high-growth, high-RISK businesses to stimulate economic development. West Virginia has had programs in the past that were successful in helping companies raise capital, such as the High Growth Business Investment Tax Credit.

“BioWV is strongly encouraging the renewal of this and other programs that can help companies transition from the campus to the market.”

BMS Ph.D. candidate publishes in International Journal of Nanomedicine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011

Contact: Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964

ginny.painter@marshall.edu

Marshall University study shows nanoparticles being used as additives

in diesel fuels can travel from lungs to liver, causing damage

Eric Blough, Ph.D.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Recent studies conducted at Marshall University have demonstrated that nanoparticles of cerium oxide – common diesel fuel additives used to increase the fuel efficiency of automobile engines – can travel from the lungs to the liver and that this process is associated with liver damage.

The data in the study by Dr. Eric R. Blough and his colleagues at Marshall’s Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems indicate there is a dose-dependent increase in the concentration of cerium in the liver of animals that had been exposed to the nanoparticles, which are only about 1/40,000 times as large as the width of a human hair. These increases in cerium were associated with elevations of liver enzymes in the blood and histological evidence consistent with liver damage. The research was published in the Oct. 13 issue of the peer-reviewed research journal International Journal of Nanomedicine.

Cerium oxide is widely used as a polishing agent for glass mirrors, television tubes and ophthalmic lenses. Cerium oxide nanoparticles are used in the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency and reduce particulate emissions. Some studies have found that cerium oxide nanoparticles may also be capable of acting as antioxidants, leading researchers to suggest these particles may also be useful for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and radiation-induced tissue damage.

Blough, the center’s director and an associate professor in the university’s Department of Biological Sciences, said, “Given the ever-increasing use of nanomaterials in industry and in the products we buy, it is becoming increasingly important to understand if these substances may be harmful. To our knowledge, this is the first report to evaluate if inhaled cerium oxide nanoparticles exhibit toxic effects in the liver.”

Dr. Siva K. Nalabotu, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. student in Blough’s lab, said, “The potential effects of nanomaterials on the environment and cellular function is not yet well understood. Interest in nanotoxicity is rapidly growing.

“Our studies show that cerium oxide nanoparticles are capable of entering the liver from the lungs through the circulation, where they show dose-dependent toxic effects on the liver. Our next step is to determine the mechanism of the toxicity.”

The research was supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, grant DE-PS02-09ER09-01.

For more information, contact Blough at blough@marshall.edu or 304-696-2708.

Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems: bridging the translational research gap

Dr. Eric Blough, Director of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems

When Dr. Eric Blough established the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology in late 2003, his goal was to one day develop it into a thriving, interdisciplinary laboratory that would help bridge the gap between basic and clinical sciences. Over the ensuing years, the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems was born.

Research in nanotechnology can involve substances as small as one nanometer, or one billionth of a meter, in size. In the words of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, “Although focused on the very small, nanotechnologies offer tremendous potential benefits. From new cancer therapies to pollution-eating compounds… nanotechnologies are changing the way people think about the future.” This is due to the fact that, as objects diminish in size, they begin to exhibit very different properties. For example, nanoparticles have a high surface area and can be very reactive. Consequently, drugs deployed using nanotechnology can potentially be five to six times as effective as those delivered traditionally. Nanoparticles can also be developed to target specific types of cells, avoiding exposing the rest of the body to a toxic medication, such as in chemotherapy.

A result of an initiative merging participants within the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and the Marshall College of Science, the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems aims to find better ways to diagnose, monitor, and treat chronic illness. As Dr. Blough envisioned, this center is one of a very few that is designed to bring together researchers from distinctly different areas of expertise together to work on common problems. Within the center, there are over a dozen different projects underway. Each project is centered on a research area that is of national importance and all have a high degree of relevance to Appalachia.

Currently, projects include work done in humans, animals, C. elegans, and cell culture. Areas of inquiry include the elucidation of new “biomarkers” for disease (cardiovascular, cancer and pulmonary conditions), the development of new types of sensors for point of care testing, and the effects that nanomaterials may have on cellular function and the environment. In addition, they are also in the process of developing new ways to “package” and deliver drugs using nanotechnological approaches.

Dr. Blough says that he is always looking for new students, new scientists, and new collaborations. He hopes to continue to grow and improve the program through new initiatives. If you would like more information about the groundbreaking research being performed at the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems at Marshall University, please refer to its website: http://www.marshall.edu/cdn/.

U.S. Senate bill could give MU $3 million for medical research

The Herald-Dispatch

WASHINGTON Marshall University could receive $3 million for medical research facilities in a bill approved by the U.S. Senate, according to a release from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The funds would be used for development of a new Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems and was included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The center will be responsible for the development of new non-invasive nanotechnologies designed to detect and diagnose disease and illnesses at very early stages. Diseases that disproportionately impact rural populations, such as ovarian cancer, heart disease and diabetes will be the focus of this initial research. The new program will be housed in the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center.

“This new center will be a vital weapon in the fight against some of the most devastating diseases we face not only in West Virginia but across the country and around the world,” said Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp. “We are exceedingly grateful for this funding and look forward to continuing to work with the Senator to better the lives of all West Virginians.”