Six QB3 projects win 2010 Rogers “Bridging-the-Gap” awards

The Rogers Family Foundation has awarded 2010 “Bridging-the-Gap” funding to six transitional projects led by QB3 faculty. The foundation, which provides support to realize the potential of research that would benefit society, has committed a total of $750,000 to three new projects as well as three that won awards last year.

“In this economic downturn, it is remarkable to have Rogers Foundation support for our researchers,” said Regis Kelly, director of QB3.

“We created the Bridging-the-Gap awards because we wanted to support the growth of QB3,” says Brian Rogers, the foundation’s executive director. “We think that QB3 is the cutting edge of innovation and collaboration, and it’s a model for others to follow—to get great minds that usually work in silos working together.”

Rogers sees the awards as high-leverage investment. “We have not only helped to fund a few researchers ourselves, but the funding has led to opportunities for some of the researchers that we did not fund to receive funding from other donors; it has encouraged the “Garage” business; and has contributed to the establishment of an Evergreen fund for QB3,” he says.

Twenty-five teams applied for the awards. The foundation made its final decisions after a series of presentations by shortlisted researchers at a December meeting.

The three newly funded projects all focus on biomedical devices.

UCSF’s Charles Chiu, director of the UCSF Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center, will work with Akonni Biosystems to modify the Virochip—a glass slide that enables medical staff to identify unknown viruses from their DNA—so that it is specialized for respiratory and diarrheal illnesses.

UCSF’s Shuvo Roy, an associate professor of bioengineering, is developing a low-cost, wearable kidney for dialysis patients.

And Holger Schmidt, a professor of electrical engineering at UC Santa Cruz, leads a team working on a portable device that optically recognizes single virus particles. “This generous support will allow us to develop a novel analytical instrument that can rapidly and cost-effectively detect pathogens at the point of care,” Schmidt says.

The three projects for which Rogers renewed funding will advance large-scale medical research.

Jim Wells, a UCSF professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, is conducting a survey of cell death biomarkers in lymphoma. “My lab was honored to receive the award,” Wells says. “It should enable us to peer for the first-time at apoptosis in real time in patients being treated with chemotherapeutics.”

Brian Shoichet, also a UCSF professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, leads a team exploring new targets for existing drugs. (Shoichet’s work was highlighted by Wired as one of the top 10 breakthroughs of 2009.)

UC Berkeley ‘s Amy Herr, a professor of bioengineering, is developing an automated microfluidic version of a Western blot. “The technology should improve prostate cancer screening,” Herr says. “We’ve been able to fill a critical gap in protein biomarker validation. The enthusiasm, focus, and generosity of the Rogers family and QB3 catalyzed the project, which has now attracted the attention of several major life sciences companies.”