Science Market Update
Watch out corn, you might just have some competition from the tequila plant in the modern day quest for biofuels. The DOE is funding a new $14.3M multi-lab project to study the CAM pathway in drought tolerant plants like agave, a hearty desert succulent. Dr. John Cushman in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Reno is receiving a new $7.6M grant, with a portion going to the University Liverpool in England as collaborators. The rest of the grant, $6.3M, is being divided between the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Newcastle University, and UT Knoxville. The name of this substantial new grant is: Engineering CAM Photosynthetic Machinery into Bioenergy Crops for Biofuels Production in Marginal Environments. Reno's high desert climate is an ideal center for this innovative biofuel research at a time when rainfall is becoming scarce and new solutions are going to have to be found if we plan to adapt to climate change.
Funding makes laboratory research possible, which makes discovery possible, which leads to advancing knowledge and treatment options. But the primary job of a top scientist and lab director should not be to write grant proposals at the expense of time spent actually doing research. With that insight in mind, the University of California San Francisco put a system in place 5 years ago called the Resource Allocation Program (RAP). The function of the RAP is to streamline the intramural funding process so that faculty only have to fill out one application for many grants, and then only twice a year on set dates. A recent review of the program shows it to be a success, with a 66% increase in overall applications submitted and approximately a 20% increase in funding awarded in the past year alone.
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OHSU life science researcher Jonah Sacha, Ph.D. (photo courtesy of OHSU), recently received $1 million in new funding for HIV research. He will be leading a team of researchers who will be investigating the possibility of developing a new AIDS vaccine.
In the David and Goliath world of science research funding, young scientists who lack the experience and PI status to pull in funding from sources like the NIH and NSF now have a new resource at petridish.org. The website, just launched in a beta version, allows scientists to appeal to ordinary folk for funding to support their research, with typically modest goals of $10,000 or less. The nine projects that debuted on petridish.org are almost all led by PhD candidates, post-docs, and staff researchers from top universities, and most are looking to travel to do data collection for life science projects. These could be tomorrow's big names in science research, getting innovative about moving their research forward now.
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Federal basic and applied science research funding could see an increase of 3.3% over 2012 (enacted) levels, to $64B, if the President's budget request for 2013 is approved. Holding tight to the promise of supporting technology and innovation while at the same time respecting the deficit cap imposed by Congress, the latest budget request proposes only level $30.7B funding for the NIH but funding increases for the NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science, with a combined total of $13.1B.
Thanks to a longtime Minnesota philanthropist and the State of Minnesota, neuroscience and diabetes researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic are looking at millions in research grant funding from two new programs:
Although NIH has been issuing salary caps to recipients of federal research grants for over 20 years, this is the first year that the levels of the caps have been reduced. It is now restricted to Executive Level II of the Federal Pay Scale. Implementation of the lower level is effective with FY2012 awards where the initial Issue Date of the award is on/after 12/23/2011. For FY2012 awards issued on/before December 22, 2011, the salary limitation remains at Executive Level 1, $199,700.
An anonymous gift of $16 million in science research funding to the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania will fund the establishment of the Neuroscience of Behavior Initiative, which aims to strengthen Penn’s program in basic, translational, clinical and population research into the areas of addiction, depressive disorders and neurodegenerative disease. The gift is the single-largest donation for neuroscience research in the school’s history.
When the University of California Berkeley (UCB) decided to actively recruit acclaimed neurologist Dr. Zhigang He away from his research position at Harvard Medical School's Children's Hospital, they knew a critical component of the package they could offer him would be a promise of substantial funding for his stem cell research on the human nervous system in his new lab. To secure this funding, UCB applied to and received a promise of $5.6M in research funding for He from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), a statewide initiative supported by taxpayer-approved bonds.