QB3-Berkeley News Archive – 2014

Highlights of QB3-Berkeley research, awards, and events news from 2014.

December 16, 2014 – QB3-Berkeley Innovators Named Fellows of National Academy of Inventors
Biochemist Jennifer Doudna, chemical engineer Jay Keasling, and chemist Richard Mathies whose innovations have launched new startups and whole new areas of bioscience research were named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. More >

December 14, 2014 – UC Trumps Stanford in Pushing Entrepreneurship, QB3 Head Says
Neuroscientist Regis Kelly has watched the Bay Area’s life-science industry blossom. As executive vice chancellor at UCSF, he oversaw the construction of its Mission Bay campus. Since 2004, he has directed QB3. A major part of QB3 is its four incubators, in which scientists turn discoveries into companies. Those startups have raised more than $500 million. More

December 8, 2014 – New Therapy Holds Promise for Restoring Vision
Researchers led by Ehud Isacoff have developed a new genetic therapy that has not only helped blind mice regain light sensitivity sufficient to distinguish flashing from non-flashing lights, but also restored light response to the retinas of dogs, setting the stage for future clinical trials of the therapy in humans. The therapy involves inserting photoswitches into retinal cells that are normally “blind.” More

November 10, 2014 – Jennifer Doudna Named 2015 Breakthrough Prize Winner
Structural biologist Jennifer Doudna is one of six life scientists to be honored as a 2015 Breakthrough Prize winner. Doudna along with Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umeå University will receive prizes worth $3m each for unravelling the mystery of a microbial defence mechanism called Crispr/Cas9 that protects bacteria from invading viruses. More

November 5, 2014 – Synthetic Biology Could Be Big Boost to Interplanetary Space Travel
Amor Menezes and Adam Arkin argue that synthetic biology can assist in our travel to other planets, with genetically engineered microbes helping to produce fuel, food, medicines and building materials on site, so that astronauts do not have to carry all supplies from Earth. More

November 5, 2014 – Golden Approach to High-Speed DNA Reading
Luke Lee co-led a research team that has created the world’s first graphene nanopores that feature integrated optical antennas. The self-aligned antennas open the door to high-speed optical nanopore sequencing of DNA. More

November 4, 2014 – How Important Is Long-Distance Travel in the Spread of Epidemics?
A new model of epidemic spread by biophysicists Oskar Hallatschek of UC Berkeley and Daniel Fisher of Stanford shows that how common long-range jumps are makes a big difference in the dispersal of a disease, that is, whether you get slow, rippling spread or metastatic spread. More

October 16, 2014 – New Front in War on Alzheimer’s and Other Protein Folding Diseases
Many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, have been linked to the accumulation of improperly folded proteins in the brain. How they collect is a mystery, but Andrew Dillin and his lab have found a new mechanism cells use to prevent misfolding that could lead to new types of therapies for these diseases. More

October 14, 2014 – Scientists Create New Protein-Based Material with Some Nerve
Scientists led by Sanjay Kumar have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could lead to new types of biological sensors, flow valves and controlled drug release systems, the researchers said. More

October 3, 2014 – RCas9: A Programmable RNA Editing Tool
A research team led by Jennifer Doudna has demontrated that a powerful scientific tool for editing the DNA instructions in a genome can also be applied to RNA. The CRISPR/Cas9 protein complex can now be programmed to recognize and cleave RNA at sequence-specific target sites. More

October 3, 2014 – Klinman Awarded National Medal of Science
Judith Klinman is one of three UC Berkeley faculty members selected by President Barack Obama to receive the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for a scientist. Klinman’s research is concerned with the nature of enzyme catalysis: how proteins and enzymes do everything from letting our bodies use oxygen to regulating neurotransmitters. More

October 2, 2014 – Multibeam Ion Microscope Arrives in the BNC
Researchers are celebrating the September 30 arrival in Stanley Hall of a Zeiss ORION NanoFab microscope that integrates three kinds of ion beams – gallium, neon, and helium – enabling researchers to manipulate and image matter down to less than 10 nanometers quickly, precisely, and efficiently. The first of its kind at an academic institution in the U.S., the device was purchased with a $2 million NSF grant. More

October 2, 2014 – $4.5 million for Big-Data Projects in Ecology, Astronomy & Microscopy
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has upped its support of data-driven science at UC Berkeley by awarding three UC Berkeley professors $1.5 million each over five years to pursue big-data projects in ecology, astronomy and microscopy. Laura Waller was one of the three named Moore Investigators in Data-Driven Discovery. More

September 30, 2014 – NIH Awards UC Berkeley $7.2 Million for Brain Research
John Ngai, Ehud Isacoff, and other QB3-Berkeley affiliates are among the scientists involved in projects funded by President Barack Obama’s Brain Initiative. A total of 58 projects were funded in the initial wave of NIH grants. In two of the Berekeley projects, researchers will catalog the thousand of types of neurons in the brain and will construct photoswitches for neural signaling probes. More

September 25, 2014 – Three Bay Area Institutions Join Forces to Seed Transformative Brain Research
As scientists rally around President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, three Bay Area research institutions – UC Berkeley, UCSF and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab – have decided to invest in high-risk, high-gain projects that could jump-start our understanding of the brain. Six new interdisciplinary projects take advantage of new technology, in particular nanotech and optogenetics. More

September 11, 2014 – Thriving, Not Just Surviving
Spearheaded by two postdoctoral researchers who thought something was missing from scientific training, a new program launched this semester to help postdocs and graduate students get the support and tools they need to succeed, sponsored by QB3 and Berkeley’s Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) office. More

September 4, 2014 – Genome Engineering Pioneers Gather at Berkeley
More than 400 people gathered August 25 to hear from leading scientists in genome engineering, at a symposium hosted by QB3 and IGI and sponsored by Agilent and Life Technologies. New advances offer novel approaches to tackling human disease. More

August 15, 2014 – Of Metal Heads and Imaging
Christopher Chang and his research group are developing new molecular imaging probes and techniques to study metals in the brain such as copper and iron which have been linked to disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

August 13, 2014 – Wemmer Takes the Reins as New Chair of Chemistry Department
Chemistry professor and former executive associate dean David Wemmer has become the new chair of the Department of Chemistry. Wemmer focuses his research work on using NMR technology for biological study. Research in the Wemmer group aims to understand the interactions which govern the functions of various biopolymers (proteins, DNA, RNA). More

August 13, 2014 – Life-Saving Dividends for Synthetic Biology Research: Microbial-Based Antimalarial Drug Shipped to Africa
A synthetic biology project begun 13 years ago by Jay Keasling was culminated with the announcement that a microbial-based version of the antimalarial drug artemisinin has been shipped to African nations where it is most needed. More

July 22, 2014 – The iCLEM Program: An Atypical Summer Job for Bay Area High School Students
Eight Bay Area high school students are participating in this summer’s iCLEM program, earning money and gaining “college knowledge” while conducting bioenergy research in the state-of-the-art scientific laboratories of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI). More

July 21, 2014 – On Capitol Hill, Keasling Calls for ‘National Initiative’ to Boost Bioengineering
UC Berkeley professor and synthetic-biology pioneer Jay Keasling was on Capitol Hill Thursday, stressing the need for a federal strategy to ensure continued U.S. leadership in a field he said can yield significant medical benefits for people throughout the world, “and even save lives.” More

July 3, 2014 – New Discovery in Living Cell Signaling
Research work by Jay Groves and his colleagues has led to a breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and other cellular disorders that have been resistant to therapy. More

July 2, 2014 – Extinct Human Cousin Gave Tibetans Advantage at High Elevation
Tens of thousands of years ago, the common ancestors of Han Chinese and Tibetans interbred with a mysterious human-like group known as Denisovans and picked up a unique variant of a gene for hemoglobin regulation that later helped them adapt to a low-oxygen environment on the high Tibetan plateau, reports professor of integrative biology Rasmus Nielsen. More

June 24, 2014 – Jennifer Doudna Wins 2014 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research
Jennifer Doudna and European colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier are the winners of the 2014 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, awarded by Johnson & Johnson. Their collaboration led to the discovery of a new method for precisely manipulating genetic information in ways that should produce new insights in health and disease and may lead to new drug targets. More

June 17, 2014 – Dynamic Spectroscopy Duo
A team of researchers led by Graham Fleming have developed a new technique called two-dimensional electronic-vibrational spectroscopy that can be used to study the interplay between electrons and atomic nuclei during a photochemical reaction. Photochemical reactions are critical to a wide range of natural and technological phenomena, including photosynthesis, vision, nanomaterials and solar energy. More

June 10, 2014 – ‘Trust Hormone’ Oxytocin Helps Old Muscles Work Like New
Researchers led by Irena Conboy have discovered that oxytocin – a hormone associated with maternal nurturing, social attachments, childbirth and sex – is indispensable for healthy muscle maintenance and repair. It is the latest target for development into a potential treatment for age-related muscle wasting. More

June 3, 2014 – Dueber, Martin, and Waller Named Bakar Fellows
John Dueber, Andy Martin, and Laura Waller are among five UC Berkeley scientists who have been awarded Bakar Fellowships, a program that supports innovative research by early career faculty with a special focus on projects that hold commercial promise. More

May 22, 2014 – Pain Killers May Improve Health of Diabetics and the Obese
Andrew Dillin and his research colleagues have found that mice lacking the capsaicin pain receptor live around 14 percent longer than other mice, and they retain a more youthful metabolism as well. Receptor blockers could not only relieve pain, but increase lifespan, improve metabolic health and help diabetics and the obese. More

May 22, 2014 – Chang and Rape Shortlisted for Prestigious Early-Career Blavatnik Awards
QB3 researchers Christopher Chang and Michael Rape are among 30 national finalists for the 2014 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. A national jury selected them from a field of 300 nominees. More

May 22, 2014 – Discovery of How Taxol Works Could Lead to Better Anticancer Drugs
A team led by biophysicist Eva Nogales has discovered how Taxol, one of the most widely used anticancer drugs, works. The finding could lead to better drugs to attack a variety of fast-growing cancers. More

May 12, 2014 – All in the Rotation
Carlos Bustamante and his research team have shed new light on a type of molecular motor used to package the DNA of a number of viruses, including herpes and the adenoviruses. Their findings could help in the development of more effective drugs and inspire the design of new and improved synthetic biomotors. More

May 8, 2014 – Polar Bear Genome Gives New Insight into Adaptations to High-Fat Diet
The polar bear diverged from the brown bear, or grizzly, as recently as several hundred thousand years ago, according to a genome comparison by Rasmus Nielsen and his colleagues. They pinpointed genes involved in fat metabolism that could provide insights that will help humans deal with health problems caused by high-fat diets. More

April 27, 2014 – GM to Order: Efficient Genetic Engineering and the Future of Food
Recent discoveries in molecular biology, led by Jennifer Doudna and her team, have the potential to once again revolutionize agriculture. Building on the new CRISPR/Cas9 technology, scientists like Brian Staskawicz are heralding a new era of genetic engineering and plant breeding. More

April 24, 2014 – Lydia Sohn a Winner for Node-Pore Sensing
As a winner of a competition to identify revolutionary platform technologies for the life sciences, Lydia Sohn received a cash prize and joined a high-profile White House meeting in March with other winners, foundation sponsors, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. More

April 21, 2014 – Researchers Demonstrate First Size-Based Chromatography Technique for the Study of Living Cells
Using nanodot technology, Jay Groves and his research team have demonstrated the first size-based form of chromatography for studying the membranes of living cells. This unique physical approach to probing cellular membrane structures reveals critical information that cannot be obtained through conventional microscopy. More

April 16, 2014 – Adam Arkin Wins 2013 Lawrence Award
Adam Arkin, who is recognized as a leading authority on the evolutionary design principles of cellular networks and populations and their application to systems and synthetic biology, has been named one of six recipients of the 2013 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. More

April 8, 2014 – On Memory’s Trail
Ehud Isacoff and his colleagues are researching at both the molecular and cellular level how individual neurons and groups of neurons coordinate complex behavior to form and access memory and what can threaten memory’s demise. More

March 26, 2014 – Resistance Is Not Futile: Researchers Engineer Resistance to Ionic Liquids in Biofuel Microbes
Jay Keasling and his colleagues have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels. The findings may pave the way for further improvements in microbes that will contribute to the sustainable production of biofuels and chemicals. More

March 18, 2014 – New DNA-Editing Technology Spawns Bold UC Initiative
UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco are launching the Innovative Genomics Initiative (IGI) to lead a revolution in genetic engineering based on a new technology already generating novel strategies for gene therapy and the genetic study of disease. The leader of the initiative, Jennifer Doudna, is one of the discoverers of the new technology, called CRISPR/Cas9. More

March 4, 2014 – First Look at How Individual Staphylococcus Cells Adhere to Nanostructures Could Lead to New Ways to Thwart Infections
Mohammad Mofrad and his colleagues have explored how individual Staphylococcus cells glom onto metallic nanostructures of various shapes and sizes that are not much bigger than the cells themselves. Their work could lead to a more nuanced understanding of what makes a surface less inviting to bacteria. More

March 2, 2014 – Stem Cell Research May Unlock Secrets of Incurable Diseases
Current treatment options for Parkinson’s are limited to medication, brain surgery, and physical therapy, but these only deal with symptoms. By trying to turn cells from unused embryos into the specific neurons lost to the disease, David Schaffer and others in his lab are working on an answer to this and perhaps hundreds of other diseases and disabilities that might be contained in one swift injection. More

February 25, 2014 – Doudna Receives Lurie Award for Gene Editing Breakthrough
Jennifer Doudna, professor of molecular and cell biology, is the 2014 recipient of the Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. Doudna, who studies what she calls “the secret life of RNA,” will receive a medal and $100,000 honorarium on May 20 in Washington, D.C. for identifying tumor cells that could lead to the development of new cancer drugs. More

February 6, 2014 – Pinning Down Malevolent Cancer Cells
Mechanical engineer Lydia Sohn is one of five young Berkeley faculty who make up the 2013 cohort of the Bakar Fellows Program, a unique Berkeley initiative created to support innovative research, especially work that has commercial applications. Sohn’s research involves devising a technique for identifying tumor cells that could lead to the development of new cancer drugs. More

February 6, 2014 – New Insight into an Emerging Genome-Editing Tool
A collaboration led by Jennifer Doudna and Eva Nogales has produced the first detailed look at the 3D structure of the Cas9 enzyme and how it partners with guide RNA to interact with target DNA. The results should enhance Cas9’s value and versatility as a genome-editing tool. More

January 29, 2014 – Puzzling Question in Bacterial Immune System Answered
Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues have answered a central question about Cas9, an enzyme that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering: How is Cas9 able to precisely discriminate between non-self DNA that must be degraded and self DNA that may be almost identical within genomes that are millions to billions of base pairs long. More

January 28, 2014 – Researchers Open Door to New HIV Therapy
Using a high-resolution snapshot of a protein that hijacks host proteins and is essential to HIV’s lethality, structural biologist James Hurley and his NIH colleague Juan Bonifacino have identified a new target for possible anti-AIDS drugs that would complement the current cocktail of drugs used to keep HIV in check. More

January 21, 2014 – Turkeys Inspire Smartphone-Capable Early Warning System for Toxins
Seung-Wuk Lee and his research team looked to turkeys for inspiration when developing a new type of biosensor that changes color when exposed to chemical vapors. They mimicked the way turkey skin changes color to create easy-to-read sensors that can detect toxins or airborne pathogens. More

January 9, 2014 – Study Dispels Theories of Y Chromosome’s Demise
Berkeley population geneticists Melissa Wilson Sayres and Rasmus Nielsen compared the Y chromosome in 8 African and 8 European men and found that its puny size resulted from strong natural selection to remove harmful genes, not because it is losing its importance and likely to disappear. More

January 8, 2014 – Science Magazine Calls Doudna’s Discovery One of the Top Breakthroughs of 2013
Jennifer Doudna and her team’s discovery of a gene-editing technique called CRISPR was named one of the runners-up for Science magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year. The technique, which has spurred a surge in research, allows scientists to target and snip specific areas of DNA with extreme precision. More

January 3, 2014 – Queen Elizabeth II Honors QB3 Director
Queen Elizabeth II has awarded Regis Kelly, QB3 Director, the title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to science, innovation and global health. Kelly, a neurobiologist who has explored the biochemical mechanisms of synaptic transmission and neural plasticity, has also served as executive vice-chancellor of UCSF. More >