$3.8 million grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute supports development of two new UB research centers

December 14, 1999

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has received a four-year, $3.8 million award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to speed development of two new research centers.

The award will fund research support for five new faculty members and capital equipment for a new Center for Single-Molecule Biophysics, as well as facilities for that center and a new Center for Genomics and Proteomics.

UB in recent years has invested nearly $9 million in building renovations and equipment purchases that are vital to the two new centers, in addition to providing more than $2 million annually in salary to faculty members associated with the programs.

The review of UB's grant request to the institute noted that "the institution has undergone recent growth, and extramural (external) grant support has increased significantly -- evidence that this is an institution rapidly on the rise."

Forty-one medical schools were selected for funding through the institute's Biomedical Research Support Program for Medical Schools from 105 that submitted proposals. UB's award is the second-largest in the program. Only UCLA School of Medicine, the University of Michigan Medical School and Yale University School of Medicine -- which each received $4 million -- were granted more funding.

Bruce Holm, Ph.D., senior associate dean in the UB medical school, is project director on the grant.

UB President William R. Greiner, announcing the funding, noted that the grant "is a vital component of our medical school's long-term plans for its research centers in biophysics and genomics -- programs in which UB already has made considerable investments.

"Substantial outside funding such as this grant," Greiner added, "provides recognition of the important work that UB is doing in these fields, and enhances our stature as one of America's major research universities.

"We are most grateful to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for its support, and we're looking forward to exciting discoveries in biomedicine from our faculty researchers."

John Wright, M.D., dean of the UB medical school, said he is thrilled to receive the award.

"This is no ordinary grant award," he noted. "It reflects well, not only on the quality of Bruce Holm's proposal, but also on the university and its reputation. In this year's cycle, more than 100 applications were presented to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and few of the 41 funded submissions approached our funding level.

"In making the award to UB, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute reviewers cited a number of strengths," Wright said. "In addition to the quality of the proposal itself, UB's commitment to the two centers was specifically noted, as was the school's recent growth in extramural grant support. The institute cited UB as 'an institution rapidly on the rise,' encouraging words indeed. We congratulate Dr. Holm and the faculty for this outstanding achievement."

The Center for Genomics and Proteomics will be a joint effort with senior investigators located at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Hauptman-Woodward Institute. This state-of-the-art center will enhance existing expertise in the areas of human, mouse and microbial genomics. Capabilities will include microarray and mass spectroscopic analyses of genes and proteins that will enhance understanding of cancer biology, microbial pathogenesis and human-disease genes.

The Center for Single Molecule Biophysics will emphasize work on computational chemistry, structural biology and molecular biology. Five new faculty members will be hired to further develop this area. The goal, Holm said, is to study proteins and other macromolecules in space and time. Results from such research will provide insights into protein structure-function relationships that can solve clinical problems.

Current work in this area is being applied to cardiac function, synaptic transmission, electrolyte secretion and tumor suppression. Anthony Auerbach, Ph.D., and Frederick Sachs, Ph.D., UB professors of physiology and biophysics, will be co-directors of this center.

An advisory board composed of Holm; Wright; Iain Hay, Ph.D., associate provost for research and chair of the UB Department of Microbiology; Harold Strauss, M.D., chair of the UB Department of Physiology and Biophysics; David Hohn, M.D., director of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the co-directors of the two centers will oversee the work.

University at Buffalo

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