New Collaborative Initiative Funds Interdisciplinary Research

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The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience awarded $100,000 to two interdisciplinary teams under a new initiative, the Petit Bioengineering and Bioscience Collaborative Grant program, which was created to support early-stage innovative biotechnology research.

The seed grant recipients address a wide range of topics including profiling  single cells to understand the heterogeneity of different cell types and new approaches to traumatic brain injury.  The call for proposals was welcomed by teams of Petit Institute faculty with one faculty member from Georgia Tech’s College of Science and one from the College of Engineering. 

“This new program aims to promote the collaboration of new teams of researchers and help them establish preliminary results to apply for large external grant proposals,” said Robert Guldberg, PhD, director of the Petit Institute.  “This initiative is directly in-line with the Petit Institute’s mission, funding cutting-edge research at the interface of bioengineering and the biosciences.”

Melissa Kemp, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department for Biomedical Engineering and Greg Gibson, professor in the School of Biology, proposed a project which aims to develop the measurement tools for relating variability in both genomic and protein information at the single cell level. The ability to conduct this type of profiling in single cells represents a remarkable technological advance in the last two years.

“Studies of genomic data often fail to bridge the observed variation in DNA sequences to cellular function, in part due to the variation that is present by both types of measurement,” Kemp said, “with the technologies this project is developing, we will be able to compare population-averaged data to single cell measurements in order to gain new insight in relating genes to phenotype.” 

Michelle LaPlaca, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Al Merrill, professor in the School of Biology, are partnering to merge traumatic brain injury with lipid biology in the hopes of evaluating, for the first time, plasma membrane breakdown mechanisms and lipid signaling following traumatic brain injury. 

“Traumatic brain injury remains a major clinical problem with few effective treatments and the devastating sequelae following this type of injury leads to chronic neural deficits,” LaPlaca stated. “We are optimistic that these funds will propel this important research forward.”

Funding for the new seed grants comes chiefly from Petit Institute's endowment as well as contributions from the College of Science and College of Engineering.  Each team will receive $50,000 a year for two years, however, the second year of funding will be contingent on submission of an external collaborative grant proposal by July 2012.


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