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Binghamton researcher receives $200,000 biotechnology award

By : Cait Anastis

Craig Laramee
A Binghamton University researcher will receive a $200,000 research award to support projects designed to improve polycystic ovary syndrome diagnostics and real-time monitoring of chemotherapy patients.

Craig Laramee, a research assistant professor in bioengineering, is one of 10 researchers in New York to receive a share of $2 million in funding under the James D. Watson Investigator initiative, which is designed to support outstanding scientists and engineers showing potential for leadership and scientific discovery in the field of biotechnology. Candidates for the awards must have been awarded a doctoral degree and have less than five-years experience in the field since receiving their doctoral degree. Only one award was made per institution.

“These grants will support the world-class research being performed by some of the best young minds at New York’s colleges and universities and will complement our other high-tech economic development initiatives, such as our Centers of Excellence program,” said Gov. George Pataki, as he announced the awards. “In addition, this support will help to further secure New York’s role as an international leader in high-tech and biotechnology research and economic development.”

A portion of the funding will support Laramee’s work to develop a protein profile chip for polycystic ovary syndrome diagnostics.

“Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the more common endocrine disorders among women of child-bearing age and it is very difficult to diagnose using current methods,” Laramee said. “It’s mostly by process of elimination.” Laramee, in partnership with researchers at SUNY’s Upstate Medical University, is working to see if they can use a new technology — protein chips — to find profiles and provide an improved method of diagnosis. The other portion will be used to support a project focused on minimizing the potential for adverse effects for patients undergoing chemotherapy. A team from Binghamton University made up of Laramee; Zhongfei Zhang, assistant professor of computer science; and Sarah Lam, assistant professor of systems science and industrial engineering; is working with the Medical Physics department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to find better ways to predict adverse reactions a patient might have to chemotherapy treatments.

“Patients undergoing chemotherapy are constantly monitored,” he said. “We want to collect this data and characterize patterns that can be used to improve this monitoring, and identify and potentially predict adverse reactions to chemotherapy. Those are the basic objectives. The three of us are working with Memorial Sloan-Kettering to try and improve the level of care for these patients.”

The research award may also serve to secure additional funding from other sources.

“We view it primarily as leverage, to give us the opportunity to get these projects off the ground and seek additional funds,” Laramee said.

The short-term goal is to do the basic science, he said. The mid-term goal is to leverage funding to support the project and the long-term goal is to make the projects commercial entities.

“Both of these have the potential to become commercial within a short time frame,” Laramee said. ”While there is a wide gap between basic science and a commercially viable product, I anticipate these projects to reach some level of commercialization within the next five years. The collaborations within New York State give us a tremendous advantage, however we are not alone in these markets and have to move quickly.”

The potential for commercial success was a key factor in earning the award. Applicants were chosen based on the best science and the best likelihood of economic success.

“This is a smart investment in the backbone of New York State’s emerging biotechnology industry, our renowned scientific research centers, colleges and universities,” said Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York Assembly, when the awards were announced. “Not only are they key to improving the state’s economy and establishing high paying employment opportunities, but even more importantly, these New York institutions will develop products and services that will improve the quality of life for people here and around the world.”

Awards were also granted to researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Stony Brook University, Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Cornell University, New York University, the University of Buffalo, the University of Rochester and Alfred University.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08