News & Updates

Researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno Aim to Repurpose Experimental Cancer Therapy to Treat Muscular Distrophy

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Researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) have demonstrated that a drug originally targeted unsuccessfully to treat cancer may have new life as a potential treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

The candidate drug, SU9516, represents a different kind of approach for treating DMD, a degenerative muscle disease that usually begins in childhood and has no known cure. It is caused by a faulty gene that leads to progressive muscle weakness, with death often occurring around age 25. Rather than trying to fix or replace the broken gene, SU9516 ramps up the muscle repair process, helping reinforce muscle structure.

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A New Study in Nature Helps to Explain How Specialized Retinal Cells Help Stabilize Vision

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Think of the way that a long flat highway seems to widen out around you from a single point on the horizon, while in the rear-view mirror everything narrows back to a single point behind you. Or think of the way that when a spaceship in a movie accelerates to its “warp” or “hyper” speed, the illusion is conveyed by the stars turning into streaks that zip radially outward off the screen. That’s how a new study in Nature says specialized cells in the retina sense their owner’s motion through the world — by sensing that same radiating flow.

The finding is part of a broader discovery, made in the retinas of mice, that may help explain how mammals keep their vision stable and keep their balance as they move, said senior author David Berson, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University.

The brain needs a way to sense how it is moving in space. Two key systems at the brain’s disposal are the motion-sensing vestibular system in the ears, and vision — specifically, how the image of the world is moving across the retina. The brain integrates information from these two systems, or uses one if the other isn’t available (e.g., in darkness or when motion is seen but not felt, as in an airplane at constant cruising speed).

The National Eye Institute (R01EY12793), the National Science Foundation (Grant: DMS-1148284), the Alcon Research Institute, the Sidney A. Fox and Dorothea Doctors Fox Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ophthalmology, and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship of Canada funded the research.

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WVU Researchers Help Detect Gravitational Waves for the Third Time

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West Virginia University professors Zach Etienne and Sean McWilliams and a group of WVU graduate students are part of a global team of scientists who have detected gravitational waves for the third time, demonstrating that a new window in astronomy has been firmly opened.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, made a third detection of ripples in space and time on January 4, 2017, which is described in a new paper in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The first detection of gravitational waves in 2015 was widely considered to be the most important scientific discovery of the century.

The detection provided a new confirmation of Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, which predicts that space and time are intertwined, and can be made to ripple when orbiting black holes stir them up. These ripples, called gravitational waves, can shrink and stretch anything in their path, although the effect at the Earth is imperceptibly small and very difficult to observe.

In this new LIGO detection, as was the case with the previous two, gravitational waves were generated when two black holes collided to form a larger black hole. The newly formed black hole had a mass about 50 times that of our Sun, and the collision produced more power than is radiated as light by all the stars in the universe at any given time.

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LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Gabriela González Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

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The National Academy of Sciences announced today that LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Professor Gabriela González has been elected as a member to the academy. González is one of the 84 new members recognized for her distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. She is an experimental physicist with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, who contributed to the detection of gravitational waves in 2015 predicted by Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

González’s research and work as the former spokesperson for the 1,000-member international LIGO Scientific Collaboration opened a new window of discovery to the cosmos. This milestone discovery was recognized as the 2016 Breakthrough of the Year by Science magazine. As an experimental physicist, González’s current research involves the reduction and characterization of noise to enhance the laser interferometers’ sensitivity to detect gravitational waves, calibrate the detectors and analyze data. She has been recognized as one of the “Ten People Who Mattered” by the scientific journal Nature; a recipient of the 2017 National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Discovery; a newly elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and Scientist of the Year by Great Minds in STEM

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Departments of Agriculture and Energy Announce Up to $9 Million through the Interagency Biomass Research and Development Initiative

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced that up to $9 million in funding will be made available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to increase the nation’s energy independence by supporting the development of bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels, and biobased products.

The projects funded through BRDI—a joint NIFA and DOE program—will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products, and diversify our energy portfolio. Both DOE and NIFA have been given statutory authorities to support the development of a biomass-based industry in the United States, under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (FCEA) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

NIFA and DOE will make up to $9 million available through BRDI in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Applicants will be permitted to address any or all of the following three legislatively mandated technical areas: (A) feedstocks development, (B) biofuels and biobased products development, and (C) biofuels development analysis.

In support of these goals, NIFA and DOE are soliciting applications from all interested parties, including for-profit entities, universities, nonprofits, and national laboratories. For FY 2017, DOE anticipates funding 1 to 6 awards, and NIFA anticipates funding 3 to 14 awards. Awards are anticipated to range from $500,000 to $2 million per award. All DOE funding is subject to the availability of annual congressional appropriations.

For more information and application requirements, visit the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Exchange under reference number DE-FOA-0001637. Concept papers are due by July 7th, 2017, and full applications are due by September 22nd, 2017.

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NSF Releases EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-1: (RII Track-1) Soliciatation

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NSF has released the NSF EPSCoR Track-1 Program Solicitation. 

Important Information from Program Solicitation:  NSF-17-562

The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. A jurisdiction is eligible to participate in EPSCoR programs if its level of NSF research support is equal to or less than 0.75 percent of the total NSF research and related activities budget for the most recent three year period. Through this program, NSF establishes partnerships with government, higher education, and industry that are designed to effect sustainable improvements in a jurisdiction's research infrastructure, Research and Development (R&D) capacity, and hence, its R&D competitiveness.

Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 (RII Track-1) awards provide up to $20 million total for 5 years to support improvements to physical and cyber infrastructure and human capital development in research areas selected by the jurisdiction's EPSCoR steering committee as having the best potential to improve future R&D competitiveness of the jurisdiction. The research activities of the project must align with the specific research priorities identified in the approved Science and Technology (S&T) Plan of the jurisdiction.

Letter of Intent Due Date(s) (required) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):  July 31, 2017

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time):  August 21, 2017

Only eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions (see RII eligibility) with current RII Track-1 awards that expire before October 1, 2018 and those without a current RII Track-1 award may compete in the FY 2018 RII Track-1 competition.

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International scientific teams work with biologists at University of Kansas, find potential approach against parasites

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Research teams from the National Institutes of Health and abroad have identified the first inhibitor of an enzyme long thought to be a potential drug target for fighting disease-causing parasites and bacteria. 

The teams, led by NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and University of Tokyo scientists, sorted through more than 1 trillion small protein fragments called cyclic peptides to uncover two that could shut down the enzyme. The finding, reported April 3, 2017 in Nature Communications, could set the stage for the potential development of new types of antimicrobial drugs.

NCATS’ expertise in early stage, pre-clinical molecule discovery helped the teams find potential drug candidates that could have implications for millions of people worldwide. 

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Brown University Galápagos study identifies keystone predator in a complex food web

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Despite popular metaphors and cartoons depicting straightforward “food chains,” ecologists such as Brown University Professor Jon Witman typically doubt that they’ll see predators in diverse tropical ecosystems have meaningful impacts on species even just two links down the line. But after six years of meticulous experimentation and observation off the coast of the famed Galápagos Islands, Witman and two colleagues have amassed direct evidence that just such an important “trophic cascade” is happening there.

The researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE that two species of triggerfish are overcoming consistent pestering by sharks, sea lions and especially hogfish to gobble up enough pencil urchins to reduce the urchins’ consumption of algae. Determining such interactions matters, Witman and his co-authors wrote, because while it is clear that humans disrupt the normal functioning of tropical ecosystems across the world, it is often unclear exactly how. Understanding when and how trophic cascades occur, and who is involved, is the only way to prevent or fix such problems.

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EVENT: National SBIR/STTR Conference in Washington, D.C. | May 15-17, 2017

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SBIR/STTR programs are the nation's largest source of early stage / high risk R&D funding for small business. At this conference you’ll learn how to participate and compete for funding in these two programs that encourage small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) and to commercialize your technological innovations.

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