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Drug discovery initiative on Medical Campus gets state funds

A $5 million initiative on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus aimed at speeding up the discovery of new drugs is in line to get $1 million in funding from the sale of unallocated hydropower from the Niagara Power Project.

The Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute has been recommended to receive the funding for its project to create a drug discovery initiative built around a sophisticated electron microscope technology that would make the Buffalo facility one of only two sites in the world with that type of capability.

The grant recommended by the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board would help the Hauptman-Woodward institute acquire and install drug discovery research instruments based on cryo-electron microscopy.

State officials said the biomedical technology would allow researchers to study molecules using an approach that increases the success rate of the research, while also reducing the time it takes to conduct the studies, sometimes shaving years off the process and cutting discovery times to as little as 18 months.

Officials also hope the initiative will lead to partnerships and collaborations with pharmaceutical companies that want to use the equipment for both research and training. Biotechnology firm Thermo Fisher Scientific plans to use the site for training purposes.

The drug discovery initiative already has received $1.2 million in state funding late last year through the regional economic development council initiative. The funding from the power proceeds allocation board, which is subject to approval by the New York Power Authority board of trustees, would put the initiative nearly halfway toward its overall funding goal.

About half of the project's $5 million cost would go toward the acquisition of a cryo-electron microscope and associated tools. State officials did not say how many people are expected to work at the initiative, which still is in its preliminary stages.

The money would come from a fund administered by the local allocation board. The fund distributes money raised from the sale of 189 megawatts of unallocated or unused hydropower from the Niagara Power Project for economic development projects.

The fund currently has $3.9 million available for economic development projects. The fund has awarded $38 million to economic development projects within 30 miles of the Niagara Power Project since the program began in 2010.

No new money has been deposited in the fund since last April because the recent power sales have not been profitable, board officials said Monday.


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