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UB CAT Awards More Than $415,000 to 16 WNY Companies Developing Life Sciences Technologies

Release Date: July 18, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT) has awarded more than $415,000 to companies in Western New York to aid them in the development of new life sciences technologies.

The funding will support a range of projects in the 2012-13 fiscal year, from development of eye-controlled keyboards to development of a new cancer immunotherapy. Companies must work with a UB professor as principal investigator, and also get access to UB facilities and equipment.

Firms receiving an award, which typically ranges between $10,000 and $50,000, must match the funding with their own money.

The UB CAT is one of 15 centers across New York State that Empire State Development's Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) funds to support university-industry collaboration in research, education and technology transfer. The focus is on linking academic research with commercial interests to help New York State-based businesses gain a technological edge on their competition.

UB received its most recent re-designation by NYSTAR as a Center for Advanced Technology in 2007. The designation lasts 10 years, during which the UB CAT receives nearly $1 million annually from NYSTAR.

Since 2005, the UB CAT has supported over 75 projects leading to more than $140 million in non-job economic impact. The center has also helped Western New York's life sciences sector create over 280 new jobs.

"The UB CAT provides companies with funding and resources during a critical stage in the development of new technologies," said Marnie LaVigne, UB associate vice president for economic development. "The projects we have supported over the years have helped create jobs in New York State, facilitated long-term partnerships between UB and industry, and led to the commercialization of new and improved life sciences products and services."

This year, 16 businesses were chosen from a group of 22 applicants, all vying for aid in creating new technologies that benefit the fields of health and medicine.

One such company, IMMCO Diagnostics Inc., will use its $40,000 award to develop a more sensitive and specific test for Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which white blood cells attack the glands that produce tears and saliva.

The syndrome is the second most common autoimmune disease, affecting some 4 million Americans. Nine out of 10 patients are women, including tennis champion Venus Williams.

Williams was first diagnosed with this disease in 2011, but suffered with Sjogren's for a while before doctors could determine the cause.

Current tests for Sjogren's syndrome are not sensitive enough, missing almost two-thirds of cases. However, research by Julian Ambrus Jr., MD, rheumatologist, immunologist and an associate professor in UB's Department of Medicine, led to the discovery of a diminished protein in those with the syndrome.

IMMCO, founded in Buffalo in 1971 by several UB professors, is one of the world's first autoimmune disease diagnostic companies. Their lab will manufacture the new testing kits, which will detect the disease in 70 to 80 percent of patients.

"Most autoimmune diseases are difficult to diagnose, simply because we really do not know the exact causes for most of them," said Lakshmanan Suresh, assistant vice president of lab services at IMMCO. "This collaboration between IMMCO and UB will help diagnose the disease earlier so treatment can be delivered sooner."

He adds, "The grant also helps us get this test from the bench stage to the market quicker."

Information regarding the UB CAT and the center's award application process is available online at http://www.bioinformatics.buffalo.edu/cat.php.