2014 S&T Fund Awards

Dale Greiner & Giles Whalen – UMass Medical School – UMass Cancer Avatar Institute. A proposed multi-campus institute that would provide mice engineered as “avatars” of individual human patient tumors, enabling technology developed for diabetes research to be used to integrate biomarker identification platform for multiple cancer types. The initiative has three components: establishment of a tumor bank, which has already begun via internal funds; clinical pathology evaluation of tumors in these specialized mice; and a new “humanized mouse core” to link the tumor bank to individual investigators in multiple cancer research fields. Award: $125,000 (not including an additional $25,000 “matching grant” provided by the Medical School, for a total of $150,000 in funding to the research team).

Robert DeConto & Raymond Bradley – UMass Amherst – Center for Computational Climatology & Paleoclimatology. An effort that brings together academic scientists and engineers, industrial researchers and users of high-performance computing resources to the issue of climate change. The grant will help develop a center for climate-related computation and numerical modeling of value to the Commonwealth and contribute to the field of climate science by applying “Big Data” computational analysis, modeling, data mining and visualization to climate change research. Award: $104,000.

Beth McCormick – UMass Medical School – Center for MicroBiome Research. This project proposes to develop a center of research and education for the “microbiome,” the term used to describe the ecosystem of the 100 trillion bacteria in the human body, in collaboration with UMass Amherst’s new Life Sciences Laboratories and the UMass Dartmouth Center for Scientific Computing and Data Visualization Research. The exploration of the microbiome – and its role in health, development and disease – is a vast, mostly untapped area of biomedical research and therapeutic potential. The center proposes to use “big data” analysis (advanced computational and bioinformatics) to research microbiome-related genomic and clinical data and involves multiple industry partners. Award: $125,000 (not including an additional $25,000 “matching grant” provided by the Medical School, for a total of $150,000 in funding to the research team).

Elizabeth Vierling & Susan Roberts – UMass Amherst – Mass. BioFoundry: Center for Discovery & Synthesis of Bioactive Molecules. This initiative establishes a “biofoundry” with the goal of discovering valuable molecules from unique plant and microbial species and developing processes, either biological or chemical, by which they can be produced in quantities sufficient for medical or industrial applications. This research center will include a natural-products (3,500 plant species) library donated by an industry partner, along with related research equipment, valued at more than $1 million. The team will work with the Medical School’s Small-Molecule Screening Facility and Northeastern University’s Antimicrobial Discovery Center. Award: $150,000.

Supriya Chakrabarti – UMass Lowell – Experimental Center for Environmental LIDAR (EXCEL). A proposed multi-campus, multidisciplinary center of excellence to develop environmental monitoring technologies via new, multiwave/multicolor “light-detection & ranging” (LIDAR) research and applications. The leadership team comprises multiple campuses and has established significant ties with external entities including universities (Boston University, MIT, Rochester Institute of Technology); military (Naval Air Systems Command and the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center); state government (Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection), industry and others. Applications in terrestrial ecology, oceanography, and wind-energy generation are expected to create additional research advances, and “big data” applications are anticipated due to the large 3-D datasets and data-visualization requirements of the technology. Award: $150,000.

Jill Macoska – UMass Boston – Next Generation Biomarker Development Pipeline Program. This award expands the scope of the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy (CPCT), a joint effort with Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (an S&T Fund grant recipient in FY2010) to create a first-of-its-kind “RNA-based” biomarker test platform that will enable faster tumor-identification and disease diagnosis and prognosis. Research will be conducted in partnership with Dana-Farber, the Harvard Cancer Center and UMass Medical School, initially targeting renal cancer, establishing ties with industry, and leveraging this work to attract additional companies seeking this novel research approach. Award: $75,000.

Mazdak Tootkaboni & Mehdi Raessi – UMass Dartmouth – UMass Center for Advanced Coatings. This grant will help faculty pursue development of a center to conduct joint research with UMass Lowell’s Advanced Composite Materials & Textile Research Lab to develop cost-effective, erosion-resistant coatings for the protection of polymer composite structures (for example, to solve the problem of wind-turbine blade erosion) using newly created protective coatings. Additional application areas involving military helicopters or commercial airliners are also being considered. Award: $136,000.

In addition to the major awards, President Caret also awarded a planning grant to the following: David Kazmer – UMass Lowell – Next Generation Materials & Processes for 3-D Printing. A planning seed grant to enable the Lowell campus, in coordination with the Amherst campus, to establish the groundwork to create a center for industry-university cooperative research in the area of 3-D printing materials, supply-chain and industrial processes. The proposed center would expand and strengthen the University’s leadership in the area of advanced manufacturing and next-generation materials and processes to enable mass production of integrated products by 3-D printing. Award: $25,000.