Symposium to Examine "Frontiers in Biological Systems"

Nobel laureate, renowned scientists among speakers; conference to be held in conjunction with grand opening of Center of Excellence

Release Date: May 16, 2006 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- One of the nation's newest and most innovative biotechnology centers, the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, will open in June with a full schedule of scientific and community events, including a science and industry symposium featuring world renowned researchers in the fields of genomics, neuroscience and biomedical informatics.

Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard, Ph.D., winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and professor of molecular and cellular neuroscience at The Rockefeller University, will be among the distinguished speakers at the "Frontiers in Biological Systems" symposium to be held June 13-15 in the Center of Excellence and the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo.

Greengard is renowned for his groundbreaking work on the molecular and cellular function of neurons. Other featured presenters will include distinguished scientists Charles Cantor, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at SEQUENOM, a leading high-performance DNA analysis company based in San Diego, and Andrea Califano, Ph.D., professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University, where he directs the Columbia MAGNet Center, one of seven National Centers for Biomedical Computing funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Cantor is author of the first textbook on genomics, "The Science and Technology of the Human Genome Project." Califano is a pioneer in the field of computational biology.

For complete information about the symposium, and to register, go to Members of the public and the news media are invited to attend.

"It is a tremendous endorsement for the Center of Excellence that so many extraordinary scientists have agreed to speak at our symposium," says Norma J. Nowak, Ph.D., director of science and technology for the center. "We hope this is just the beginning of their relationship with the center, and that they will serve as ambassadors for the center as we begin recruiting talented scientists worldwide to join us in this exciting new venture at UB and in Buffalo."

The grand opening of the New York State Center of Excellence of Bioinformatics and Life Sciences will take place on June 2. The center was established to create a hub of life sciences expertise and innovation in Buffalo and Upstate New York, and was made possible through the investment of more than $200 million dollars from state, federal, industry and philanthropic sources. Center of Excellence research institutions have been around for more than 100 years with UB as the lead academic organization, and two research partners, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Creation of the center is the result of Gov. George Pataki's ambitious plan to create jobs and jump-start the New York State economy through the creation of high-technology "centers of excellence" throughout the state.

"Systems biology," the focus of the symposium's scientific track, is a new approach to investigating the cause and effect of disease, explains Nowak, whose research played a prominent role in the mapping of the human genome. This approach uses powerful computing and visualization techniques to study the complex relationships and interactions of the genes, cells and tissues that make up an organism.

"Systems biology is about the big picture, it's not about genes in isolation," Nowak says. "You need to understand the interplay of how a gene functions in the context of other genes that are part of a particular pathway, and how that pathway interacts with other pathways in a network, in order to understand what is normal biology or how that is altered to cause disease.

"Understanding the complexity of biological systems will be a key area of research in the Center of Excellence's research-and-development continuum," she adds. "We want to recruit scientists who can help us assemble and envision the complex networks of genes in respective pathways so we can better understand the cause of disease and develop treatments and therapies."

The symposium also will include two sessions describing the development and commercialization of biotech research from UB and in Buffalo: "Innovation in Bioengineering Technologies" will feature the work of the three UB researchers who are developing tissue-engineered blood vessels, computer programs for analyzing X-ray images of blood vessels to improve treatment of heart and brain vessels, and a chemical sensor trained to recognize disease biomarkers, respectively. "Success Stories in Building a Life Sciences Company in Western New York" will feature commentary from the CEOs and presidents of three Buffalo-based biotech companies, SmartPill Diagnostics, Empire Genomics and Reichert Inc.

Also speaking at the symposium will be scientists Michael Snyder, Ph.D., director of the Yale Center for Genomics & Proteomics; Thomas Blumenthal, Ph.D., professor and chair of biochemistry & molecular genetics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; Claire Fraser-Liggett, Ph.D., president and director, The Institute for Genomics Research; David Relman, M.D., director of the

Proteomics/Genomics Core at the Digestive Disease Center, Stanford University School of Medicine; Samuel Danishefsky, Ph.D., professor and director of bioorganic chemistry at Columbia University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Nathaniel Heintz, Ph.D., director, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Genetics, Duke University Medical Center.

Also, Lawrence S.B. Goldstein, Ph.D., professor of cellular and molecular medicine at University of California San Diego and investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Sangram Sisodia, Ph.D., director of the Center for Molecular Neurobiology, University of Chicago; Michael Becich, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Benedum Oncology Informatics Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical School; James Cimino, M.D., professor of biomedical informatics, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Charles Mead, M.D., MSc, senior associate, Booz Allen Hamilton.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.

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