Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), through its Strategic Research Group (SRG) program, announced that it is granting nearly $10 million to eight outstanding research collaborations throughout the state.
The SRG program was designed to seed major, high-impact collaborations between Arizona researchers and industrial partners. “In its first SRG effort, SFAz will foster, grow and cement research partnerships with significant industry leaders in the state such as Honeywell, Intel, Motorola and Ventana,” said William C. Harris, SFAz president and CEO. “These collaborations further anchor these industries to the state.”
The funded research projects are innovative and touch upon three areas of strategic importance to Arizona – sustainability, information and communications technologies, and biosciences. A requirement of the program is that the industrial partners fully endorse the projects with a one-to-one match.
“These are true partnerships, sharing talent and resources in a way that will ultimately benefit Arizonans both economically, and also through the outcomes achieved in these eight collaborative programs,” Harris continued.
Of the eight programs funded, four are two-year grants of up to $1 million per year and three are one-year awards intended to seed new partnerships. Details on the eighth funded Strategic Research Group will be announced in a few weeks. The research collaborations are wide-ranging and have the potential to have enormous implications for the people of Arizona in the areas of biomedicine, communications technologies and renewable energy.
One example is a collaborative effort between Dr. Jeffrey Cossman, chief scientific officer at the Critical Path Institute (C-Path) and Ventana Medical Systems, 2 both of the Tucson region, to develop personalized medicine to target cancer. The Arizona-based program could redefine the way the medical industry develops exciting new products for regulatory approval and use by physicians.
“This is a unique opportunity for an Arizona company to pioneer a new, industry-wide strategy by working together with C-Path,” said Cossman. “The SFAz investment enables the parties to accelerate broad acceptance of personalized medicine tools, while at the same time meet FDA’s goal to establish a model for others to follow.”
The rigorous review process for proposals to the SRG program, as in the other SFAz grant programs, was patterned after reviews conducted by federal agencies. Experts in the areas of each proposal conducted mail reviews, followed by the research partners presenting before a full panel of experts in the three strategic areas.
Eight exceptional proposals were selected from 28 submissions. They are:
• Dr. Jeffrey Cossman, chief scientific officer of The Critical Path Institute, will receive $2,161,000 over two years and will partner with Ventana Medical Systems to establish a standard model system used for the validation of diagnostics in targeted therapy, using lung cancer as the prototype for this model. The diagnostic tests have the potential to guide the choice of targeted therapy so the patient receives the most effective treatment - the essence of “personalized medicine”.
• Dr. David Galbraith, professor of Plant Sciences and member of the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona, will receive $2,172,000 over two years to cement a collaboration between High Throughput Genomics (HTG) of Tucson and BIO5 to establish the Chemical Genomics and Translational Research Center (CGTR). The CGTR will utilize an assay developed by HTG to create other applications, leading to clinical development and diagnosis tools.
• Dr. Anthony Muscat, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Arizona, has established a consortium of collaborators. He will receive a two-year grant of $625,000 to partner with Semiconductor Research Corporation, Intel, Sematech, SEZ America and ASM to develop a sustainable process for the high-volume manufacturing of electronics and photonics. This process has the potential to change the methods used in 3 device fabrication at the nanoscale while dramatically conserving water and decreasing materials costs.
• Dr. Robert Penny, chief operating officer and chief medical officer of the International Genomics Consortium (IGC), will receive $2 million over two years to collaborate with Ameripath on the Expression Project for Oncology (expO). ExpO will utilize the biospecimen research and resources at IGC to create a publicly accessible scientific and information database. In addition to implicating the research for more accurate diagnoses and therapy of cancers, this infrastructure will attract additional medical industries and biotechnology projects to Arizona.
• Dr. Yong-Hang Zhang, professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the Center for Nanophotonics at Arizona State University, will receive a one-year grant of $500,000. This Discovery Award will solidify a research collaboration between Zhang’s team members at ASU, UA and several highly experienced industry partners to develop innovative ultrahigh efficiency solar cells using semiconductor nanostructures for electricity generation.
• Dr. Chieri Kubota of University of Arizona and Dr. Guy Cardineau of Arizona State University will receive a planning grant of $50,000 for research to demonstrate controlled-environment production of biopharmaceuticals.
• Dr. Cun-Zheng Ning of Arizona State University will receive a planning grant of $50,000 to strengthen existing partnerships with the University of Arizona and Motorola with a goal of establishing a federally funded Photonics Research Center with the universities and industry.
• Details on the eighth project will be released in the next few weeks. The SRG grants are the latest in SFAz’s initial investment strategy, which intends to help build a world-class science, engineering and medical research infrastructure in Arizona by investing in highly innovative research programs. Other SFAz investments announced earlier this year include the Graduate Research Fellowships, Small Business Catalytic program, the Competitive Advantage Awards, and the K-12 Student & Teacher Discovery programs.