UAlbany Scientists Pursue Health Research through SUNY Network of Excellence Funding

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 22, 2014) -- Six University at Albany researchers are members of teams that won funding through the State University of New York Health Network of Excellence. The health-related research projects span antibiotic development, big data, and 3D printing technology initiatives.

The Health Network of Excellence is one of five SUNY Networks of Excellence launched in the last year to support increased research collaborations across SUNY and with industry partners, and to spur commercialization activities. The other Networks of Excellence include SUNY 4E (Energy, Environment, Education, Economics), SUNY Brain, SUNY Materials and Advanced Manufacturing, and SUNY Arts and Humanities.

Through a competitive grant process, the SUNY Research Foundation is making funding available to each of the networks. The projects involving UAlbany researchers were three of six projects in the first round of awardees in the Health Network of Excellence. Each project will receive approximately $150,000.

Focus on Development of Antibiotics to Combat Multidrug-Resistant Pathogens
A drug discovery and development project is being led by principal investigator Paul Agris, director of The RNA Institute, and includes Alan Chen, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry and The RNA Institute, and Kathleen McDonough, research scientist, New York State Department of Health and School of Public Health.

Illustration of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) pathogen

The development of antibiotics to combat multidrug-resistant pathogens such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), shown in this image, is the focus of a project led by RNA Institute Director Paul Agris. (Illustration: CDC/Melissa Brower)

The multidisciplinary project focuses on the development of antibiotics to combat multidrug-resistant pathogens such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). The goal of the project is to validate new and novel drug candidates as a viable new class of antibiotics that kill harmful bacteria, but display little to no toxicity to human cells.

In addition to the UAlbany researchers, the team includes Douglas Kitchen of Albany Molecular Research Inc., as well as Paul Kostyniak and Patricia Masso-Welch of the University at Buffalo.

Integrating SUNY’s Healthcare Big Data
Theresa Pardo, director of the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) and associate research professor, Department of Informatics and Department of Public Administration and Policy, and Natalie Helbig, CTG assistant research director and affiliated faculty, Department of Informatics, are part of an effort to produce a road map for the integration of the healthcare big data generated by all SUNY entities that provide clinical care.

The goal is to create a clinical integrated data repository (CIDR) of electronic health record (EHR) data that would be a valuable research resource. The project team plans to catalog EHR assets; assess how EHR data could be extracted and aggregated into a CIDR; review the regulatory environment for research using clinical data; organize a summit to synthesize and disseminate the results of these efforts; and make recommendations for how best to achieve the SUNY-wide data repository.

Peter Winkelstein of the University at Buffalo is the principal investigator. In addition to the UAlbany researchers, the team includes Werner Ceusters and Peter Elkin, University at Buffalo; Saurabh Mehta, Cornell University; Yalini Senathirajah, Downstate Medical Center; and Christopher Morley and John Epling, Upstate Medical University.

Developing 3D Printing Technology for Use in Organ Transplantation
Sally Temple, stem cell researcher, School of Public Health and Neural Stem Cell Institute, is part of a project to develop a new 3D printing technology to realize custom manufacturing of soft tissues for individualized organ transplantation.

The central idea is to use 3D additive manufacturing technologies to pattern cell-encapsulated hydrogels in a layer-by-layer fashion, thereby recapitulating complex 3D structures of tissues and organs. A particular focus is on the development of new technology for manufacturing biologically functional islets for diabetes treatment. Kaiming Ye of Binghamton University is the principal investigator.

In addition to Temple, the team includes Sha Jin and Gretchen Mahler, Binghamton University; Yunbing Xie, College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering; Minglin Ma, Cornell University; Guahao Da, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Yi Hong, University of Texas at Arlington.

A list of all six projects funded in the first round of grants through the Health Network of Excellence is included in the announcement made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.