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Mass. Life Sciences Center Awards UML More Than $1M

Grants from New Program Will Support Research, Education

Xingwei Wang is shown in her lab working on the research project that recently received a grant.

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UMass Lowell will receive more than $1 million from the $7 million in research matching grants recently approved by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center board to fund scientific research and new faculty.

UMass Lowell is one of only four institutions ߝ along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University and UMass Amherst ߝ to receive more than one grant from the board. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center was established by the Legislature in 2006 to strengthen the life sciences sector in the state and is a vehicle to advance Gov. Deval Patrick’s new $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative.

The matching grant program was launched in February and is open to public and private universities, academic medical centers and independent research entities. The program offered a total of $12 million in matching investments for cooperative research, new faculty and research by new investigators. Applications underwent competitive peer review for scientific merit, according to the center. Successful applicants must get a 1:1 match for the grant from their home institutions or industry partners.

Xingwei Wang, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is among seven recipients of New Investigator Awards for 2008, grants that are intended to spur innovative research and advance the careers of promising new researchers. Wang, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will receive $100,000 during each of the next three years to support her research into the development of miniature bio-sensing probes for use in the rapid detection of viruses from influenza to tuberculosis, as well as bacteria and other cells.

The sensors are tiny ߝ the diameter of a human hair ߝ and are being developed for use in everything from health care to common household items like kitchen utensils or toothbrushes to detect food- or water-borne bacteria, says Wang.

“The grant greatly facilitates the advance of our group’s research. We have a few novel ideas about biosensors and medical devices,” says Wang, adding that the funding will support the work of one post-doctoral researcher and two to three graduate students as the team works to further demonstrate the sensors’ capability through modeling and a series of laboratory tests.

Wang ߝ who thanked her mentors Profs. Craig Armiento, Melisenda McDonald, Julie Chen, Joey Mead and Carol Barry for their support in the research ߝ plans to seek more funding for the work in the future from sources like the National Institutes for Health, other federal agencies and private industry.

Wang’s proposal was among 35 applications for New Investigator Awards that were considered through research, administrative and peer reviews. UMass Lowell is among recipients that include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston University, Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts Veterinary School, UMass Amherst and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

UMass Lowell was also chosen as a recipient of a New Faculty Grant, which is intended to recruit nationally prominent researchers to Massachusetts colleges and universities. UMass Lowell is one of five institutions ߝ along with Boston University, Brandeis University, UMass Amherst and UMass Boston ߝ selected for the grant to fund a position for a faculty member with expertise in biomanufacturing science and engineering.

The grant ߝ for $750,000 over three years ߝ will go to hire a new faculty member in chemical engineering who will both teach and do research as a member of the Massachusetts Biomanufacturing Center’s interdisciplinary team, according to Carl Lawton, the center’s director and associate professor of chemical engineering.

The center works with manufacturers and equipment suppliers in the biotechnology industry, and has played a role in bringing companies like Bristol Myers Squibb to Massachusetts. A third of the 100,000 new jobs projected in the biotech sector in the state are connected to biomanufacturing. 

Xingwei Wang is shown in her lab working on the research project that recently received a grant.