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March 7, 2007

Purdue, IU researchers collaborate on life sciences, biomedical initiatives

Chip Rutledge
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Ten teams at Purdue and Indiana universities will receive $50,000 each for research ranging from efforts to improve detection of colon cancer to creating precise 3-D models of the molecular structure of viruses.Three projects are part of the second round of the Collaborations in Life Sciences and Informatics Research competition, which is funded by Purdue and IU. Seven other teams were funded through the Collaborations in Biomedical Research program, which supports research between faculty at Purdue and the Indiana University School of Medicine.

"These 10 shared awards totaling $500,000 are designed to lead to increased capability for the collaborators to compete successfully for larger federal grants," said Charles O. Rutledge, vice president for research at Purdue. "This program also helps spark quality research between our two universities, and these projects are advancing interdisciplinary opportunities here and at IU."

Michael A. McRobbie, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at IU, said these initiatives go well beyond the research and the labs at Indiana's two leading public universities. 

"Support for these innovative new collaborative projects through this collaboration continues to allow us to more effectively leverage the resources and strengths of both of the state's major research universities," said McRobbie, who will become IU's president on July 1. "These grants are also targeted for areas that are especially promising for economic development in the state."

The life sciences projects, among other areas, focus on advancements in proteomics, the characteristics of biofilms and their applications for plant genetic engineering, and the use of cryoelectronics for developing models to examine more precisely the characteristics of a virus. Researchers will utilize labs on both campuses, including the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue's Discovery Park, to perform the three projects, which include:


Michael A. McRobbie
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 * Olga Vitek, Purdue assistant professor of statistics and computer science, is working with Predrag Radivojac, IU assistant professor of informatics, to develop a procedure for improving how protein building blocks, called peptides, are identified by using a mass spectrometer. Researchers also will try to control the number of falsely identified proteins.

* Purdue biology professor Stanton Gelvin is collaborating with William Fuqua, an associate professor of biology at IU, to genetically engineer agrobacterium biofilms. These biofilms are important to initiate the process where agrobacterium transfers DNA to plants. Biofilms from diverse bacteria can pose problems for manufacturing, agricultural and medical industries because they coat and clog surfaces. But they are beneficial in certain applications, especially wastewater processing. This research project, which will focus on the aspect of plant genetic engineering, will be done in the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue's West Lafayette campus.

* Bogdan Dragnea, IU assistant professor of chemistry, is collaborating with Lia Stanciu, Purdue assistant professor of materials engineering, in testing the hypothesis that a technique called cryoelectronic microscopy can be used to create 3-D images to generate a realistic model of the molecular arrangement in a virus. In cryoelectron microscopy, samples are frozen before being viewed with an electronic microscope. The research will be performed at Purdue's School of Materials Engineering and Birck Nanotechnology Center and at IU's Department of Chemistry.

Funded projects through the latest round of the Collaborations in Biomedical Research program will study areas ranging from using metabolomics to help detect colon cancer to inserting a micro-wireless sensor into the body for medical treatment. Those seven projects are:

* Metabolomics-based detection of colon cancer - Daniel Raftery of Purdue and Elena Chiorean at IU.

* Biomechanics of fatigue failure in osteoporosis and understanding long-term effects of treatment options - Thomas Siegmund of Purdue and David Burr of IU.

* A proteomics approach to molecular connections between metabolic syndrome and coronary artery disease - Andy Tao of Purdue and Michael Sturek of IU.

* Role of a protein called Cdc42 in insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells - Debbie Thurmond of IU and Greg Hockerman at Purdue.

* Using a mass-spectrometry technique called LC-MS to analyze blood samples from research in cardiovascular disease - Vitek at Purdue and Susanne Ragg at IU.

* Drugs that inhibit production of an enzyme called PTP1B as anti-diabetes and obesity agents - Zhong-Yin Zhang of IU and Richard Borch at Purdue.

* An implantable microdevice for wireless measurement of intraocular pressure in humans - Babak Ziaie of Purdue and Louis Cantor at IU.

Writers:  Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133, (765) 427-3009 (cell),

Sherry Knighton-Schwandt, (812) 856-0504,

Sources:   Charles O. Rutledge, (765) 494-6209,

Michael A. McRobbie, (812) 855-6494,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Media representatives who want more information about specific research projects in this news release can contact Phillip Fiorini of Purdue at (765) 496-3133,, or Sherry Knighton-Schwandt of IU at (812) 856-0504,

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