A Medical Device Daily

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said it will provide $24.29 million over five years to the University of California, Irvine (UCI) for continued support to the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN).

Currently a consortium of 28 universities and 37 research groups, BIRN is leveraging and sharing distributed tools, software applications, techniques, data, and expertise that extend beyond the boundaries of individual laboratories. This major NCRR initiative, involving both basic and clinical investigators, is initially concentrating on research involving neuroimaging, but the tools and technologies developed will ultimately be applicable to other disciplines.

“Through this effort, we are creating new models for collaboration among researchers who study diseases at multiple sites with different equipment,“ said Elaine Collier, MD, assistant director of NCRR's division of clinical research. “Function BIRN's utilization of emerging technology for collaborative research and sharing of knowledge gained will accelerate scientific discoveries by allowing researchers to tackle complex questions and large-scale research projects that were not previously possible.“

In its initial phase, the Function BIRN focused on developing a shared data storage infrastructure and standard imaging methods for the multiple sites.

In other grants news:

The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB; Seattle), a non-profit research institute with a mission of exploring the complexities of human genes in order to prevent and treat diseases, received a five-year, $16.3 million grant from the NIH to fund the operation of a Center for Systems Biology in Seattle.

The new center will be housed at ISB's research and office building, located on Lake Union, and will foster collaborative research among the diverse set of researchers at ISB. With a faculty and staff composed of biologists, chemists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians and physicists, ISB designed the center to bring its researchers together in order to further the systems approach to biology and medicine they have pioneered since its formation in 2000.

“The future of systems biology depends on effective collaborations among researchers from different disciplines,“ said John Aitchison, the new associate director of the Center for Systems Biology. “This grant will help the institute grow in its capacity to conduct collaborative research, develop new technologies and reach out to the larger community.“

The center will be only the sixth of its kind in the U.S.

• VirtualScopics (Rochester, New York), a developer of image-related biomarker solutions, said it has signed its largest single contract to date with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK; London), potentially worth in excess of $3 million.

VirtualScopics has created a suite of image analysis tools used in detecting and analyzing specific structures in volumetric medical images, as well as characterizing minute changes in structures over time, providing vital information to support clinical trials and diagnostic applications.

The company will analyze MRI data on subjects with osteoarthritis, and it will be responsible for co-managing the collection of MRI data from sites located throughout North America, Asia and Europe.

VirtualScopics said it is able to integrate in-depth knowledge of image-based biomarkers, expertise in a variety of medical imaging techniques, and proprietary software tools that can precisely assess disease progression after the intervention of a drug or device, with fewer patients and lower cost than conventional approaches.

Bob Klimasewski, president and CEO of VirtualScopics, said that the decision by GSK to collaborate with VirtualScopics on a study of this magnitude “demonstrates the value placed on our technology and capabilities. We look forward to working with GSK in their development of a new treatment option for millions of osteoarthritis sufferers worldwide.“

With this contract, VirtualScopics said its technology is being used by eight of the 15 top pharma, biotech and medical device companies worldwide to bring new products to market faster.

VirtualScopics evolved from research first carried out at the Medical Center and School of Engineering at the University of Rochester . The firm's software algorithms can assemble hundreds of separate medical images taken during an MRI session into a single, 3-D model, bringing previously unobtainable source of data to researchers.

• Celliance (Atlanta), a subsidiary of Serologicals (also Atlanta), a developer of biological products, reported the execution of an expanded four-year supply agreement with Novo Nordisk (Bagsvaerd, Denmark) that provides Celliance the worldwide exclusive right to distribute Novo Nordisk's recombinant human insulin in the cell culture market.

Jesper Hoiland, Novo Nordisk's senior vice president of international operations, said, “Novo Nordisk and Celliance have worked closely to build a leading position in the insulin segment of the global market for cell culture media. The new agreement creates a strong platform for increased growth.“

Celliance offers bioprocessing products and services including diagnostic products and cell culture media supplements.