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Stony Brook University wins $3M award aimed at turning discoveries into products

The entrance to the west campus of Stony

The entrance to the west campus of Stony Brook University is pictured on March 25, 2015. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Stony Brook University's Center for Biotechnology has won a three-year, $3 million award from the National Institutes of Health designed to usher basic biomedical discoveries into commercial products.

The award is one of only three granted and designates Stony Brook a research "hub" in the NIH's Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub program — REACH — which fosters public-private partnerships.

The objective of the grant is to identify scientific innovations with wide-ranging potential.

Dr. Clinton Rubin, principal investigator of the project, said Stony Brook was competing with research institutions nationwide.

"There was ferocious competition to be named one of these REACH hubs," said Rubin, noting that Stony Brook's already deep portfolio of world-class innovations gave it an edge.

For decades, the university's research has helped change how doctors practice medicine. The MRI emerged from groundbreaking research by the late Paul Lauterbur, Rubin said, referring to the Stony Brook scientist who won the 2003 Nobel Prize for magnetic resonance imaging. In the 1960s, Lauterbur sketched out his earliest ideas about magnetic resonance on a napkin while dining at a Long Island Big Boy restaurant.

More recently, an enzyme-based medication, developed by Drs. Marie Badalamente and colleagues, has produced a paradigm shift in how doctors deal with the disfiguring condition known as Dupuytren's contracture, a painful disorder that can contort the hands. The drug is a cure.

The breakthrough coronary artery medication ReoPro, a platelet aggregation inhibitor, was developed at Stony Brook. It's used after artery-opening angioplasty to prevent the sticky, disc-like cells called platelets from clumping together and causing re-blockage.

Now, Stony Brook scientists are pursuing a new take on artificial skin for burn patients, and a high-tech hearing aid. Other researchers are looking into treatments for diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity, Rubin said.

The hub, he and other Stony Brook scientists contend, will help researchers commercialize their innovations.

"This is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity," said Yacov Shamash, vice president for economic development and dean of Stony Brook's College of Engineering. He called the NIH grant "a great shot in the arm."

David Conover, the university's vice president for research, said the university's "hub researchers" who have yet to be chosen will hail from numerous disciplines — medicine, engineering, dentistry and other fields.

"I am very excited about this for a variety of reasons. We were one of only three institutions that were selected," Conover said, adding "it's a great accomplishment that we were selected and this was the first year the NIH has run the competition."

The other two universities named as NIH hub grant recipients are the University of Louisville in Kentucky and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Most scientists, Rubin said, are involved in basic research and don't always think about regulatory requirements, protection through intellectual property laws and other aspects of business infrastructure that can help speed scientific developments to commercial products.

He said with the NIH grant, Stony Brook is establishing the Long Island Bioscience Hub. Rubin added that he's looking forward to the projects that will emerge, noting that all will probably benefit from established links on Long Island to angel funding and support through New York State.

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