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NASA grants $7.1 million to UB bioinformatics center

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday released $7.1 million to the University at Buffalo's bioinformatics center to study origins-of-life issues and how diseases are triggered in space.

The announcement of the grant by Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, came as a surprise. Only last Monday, the Bush administration asked Congress to kill 140 existing programs and eliminate special congressional earmarks like this one.

UB has been waiting over a year for this money.

Dr. Bruce Holm, who heads the bioinformatics program, said the funds will support work planned at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which will open in a month.

It was the second major grant in as many days for health sciences research at UB.

The new federal money, Holm said, "dovetails with the grant from Pfizer announced earlier this week."

Without the federal assistance, Holm said, "we would never have qualified for the Pfizer money." Pfizer announced Thursday it would allocate up to $7.5 million for sophisticated studies at UB into pharmaceuticals over five years.

"Congressman Reynolds opened the door for us, and then we went through an intensive peer review program [conducted by NASA] that took about a year," Holm said.

Three years ago, Reynolds persuaded Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Onondaga, a powerful Appropriations subcommittee chairman, to support legislation earmarking a total of $11.5 million for UB. Of that amount, $4.4 million was awarded. The rest was released on Friday.

Holm said that with this money, "We have been able to leverage additional National Institutes of Health and private sector funding at an approximate 5-to-1 ratio."

The money was made available under NASA's Fundamental Space Biology program, which funds studies into how diseases are triggered on Earth and in an environment of weightlessness.


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