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UB Announces Enhancement of Bioinformatics Center, Seven New Units Join Core Bioinformatics Component

By Arthur Page

Release Date: April 7, 2004

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo today announced it is adding seven new units to the core component of bioinformatics to enhance its Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

Bruce A. Holm, Ph.D., who as a senior vice provost has been UB's point person on many of its high-technology and life-sciences projects, has been appointed executive director of the center.

In addition to bioinformatics, Holm will oversee units in molecular targeting, gene expression, proteomics and structural biology, disease modeling, and pharmacokinetics, as well as a clinical research center and an Interventional Population Health Observatory.

With the expansion, the number of UB faculty researchers affiliated with the center will increase from its present core of six outstanding faculty members, to 40-50 current faculty members working across multidisciplinary lines, including scientists from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI). The center will continue to recruit aggressively for key scientific personnel.

"The expansion and enhancement of the Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences is consistent with the vision of Gov. George Pataki when he proposed its creation three years ago and a major step in providing an integrated approach for creating a life-sciences economy for Buffalo Niagara," said UB President John B. Simpson, Ph.D.

"The expanded center will draw upon existing faculty and research strengths at the university and within its professional schools, as well as at our partner institutions. UB's collaboration with Roswell Park and Hauptman-Woodward is deep-rooted; new collaborative efforts realized through the expanded center will strengthen all three institutions in fulfilling their missions."

Simpson noted that more than $290 million has been obtained in support of the Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences from state, federal and philanthropic sources, as well as from business partners.

"By expanding the scope of the center, these funds will be used optimally through leveraging of the resources and capabilities of the university and its life-sciences partners and increasing synergies among scientists affiliated with the center," Simpson added.

He noted that work is on schedule for the new home for the center, scheduled to open late next year at Ellicott and Virginia streets. The structure -- along with Roswell Park's new Center for Genetics and Pharmacology and HWI's Structural Biology Research Center -- is under construction as part of the Buffalo Life Sciences Complex in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Simpson noted, "It's a difficult and challenging proposition to expand a region's economic base from one anchored traditionally in manufacturing to one that includes a life-sciences foundation; experience in other parts of the U.S. has shown it takes years for this occur. This broader conceptualization of the center's scope and structure we are announcing today is designed to facilitate that process and is consistent with earlier long-term plans for fostering a strong life-sciences economy in the Buffalo-Niagara region."

Robert J. Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., UB interim provost and head of its Office of Science, Technology and Economic Outreach (STOR), the goal of which is to bolster technology transfer and economic development in the region, had high praise for Holm.

Genco said, "The newly expanded Center of Excellence announced by the President Simpson needs a science administrator to oversee the design and utilization of the new bioinformatics building, to continue recruiting scientists, to obtain further research and development funds and to champion the commercialization of Center of Excellence discoveries for the benefit of society and for regional economic development. Bruce Holm is well-suited to lead this effort,"

Genco added that Holm has personal experience with successful commercialization of research results -- his research on therapeutics for acute lung disease secured two patents that resulted in the development of Infasurf®, a drug that has helped reduce the rate of mortality for pre-term newborns.

"Bruce has served admirably as the university's point person on many of its high-technology/bio-technology projects since his appointment in January 2002 as a senior vice provost," Genco noted. "He has been the chief administrator in the provost's office for the Center of Excellence, Strategically Targeted Academic Research (STAR) Center for Disease Modeling and Therapy Discovery, and the Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technologies (CAT). He also has worked closely with UB's Office of Science, Technology and Economic Outreach."

Genco said Holm also has worked collaboratively and successfully with UB's academic partners, including Roswell Park and HWI, and with the university's partners in the local business community and with major corporations.

Holm is a professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Science. As an associate

dean of the medical school, he oversaw the design, equipping and use of the Biomedical Research Building on UB's South (Main Street) Campus.

He also has been an integral part of the economic and scientific development of the Center for Excellence and has been instrumental in the recruitment of major corporate partnerships and researchers. He recently received a Partners in Leadership Award from the State University of New York for his role in the center's development.

An honors graduate of the University of Iowa, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, Holm earned a master's degree and doctorate in toxicology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1985 and 1987, respectively.

Gov. George E. Pataki proposed creation of the Center of Excellence in 2001 as an engine to spur economic development and create thousands of high-technology jobs, helping to lay the foundation for a new life-sciences economy for Buffalo Niagara. It was proposed along with creation of other Centers of Excellence in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Long Island as part of an effort to leverage the state's expertise in high technologies, attract new businesses and improve the state's economy. Construction of the structure at Ellicott and Virginia streets is being funded through $52 million in state funds.

Through the efforts of Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Jack Quinn, the Center of Excellence has to date accumulated $20.4 million in federal funding, well on the way to meeting the long-range goal of $25 million in federal funding for the project.

Major philanthropic support also has been received by the Center of Excellence. The John R. Oishei Foundation has invested more than $3.5 million in the recruitment, salaries and research for scientists at the center, as well as $3.5 million each to Roswell Park and HWI for the buildings they are constructing within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has awarded grants totaling $4.5 million to the UB, HWI and Roswell Park to encourage collaboration and reinforce connectivity among the three buildings.

An important aspect of the Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences is its interaction with industrial partners that will facilitate commercialization efforts of its discoveries, job creation and joint research opportunities. The companies include Invitrogen, Cognigen, General Dynamics, General Electric, Amersham, 3M, SGI, IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Micro Systems, Informax and AT&T.

UB officials are working closely with the business community and key organizations -- including BuffLink, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and Buffalo Niagara Partnership -- to facilitate and accelerate the results from technology transfer and commercialization of cutting-edge research by UB scientists, including those affiliated with the Center of Excellence, leading to new jobs in Buffalo with existing biotech firms and ones being attracted to the area by its emerging life-sciences economy.