A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas) reported receiving a research grant worth more than $9.8 million over five years from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; Washington).

The focus of the research study, titled, "Lung Cancer Pathogenesis and HZE Particle Exposure," will be the identification of solid-tumor cancer risks from space radiation.

Data will be collected from animal models and tissues at the cellular and molecular level, with special emphasis on extrapolating the collected knowledge to humans. Radiation exposures required to conduct the research will use ground-based irradiation facilities at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory Brookhaven National Laboratory (Upton, New York).

The grant adds another NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR) to the space radiation program. NSCOR is designed to advance knowledge in the biological and biomedical sciences and technology arenas. The ultimate application of this knowledge is to enable human space flight and long-term planetary missions.

"It expands the pool of research scientists and engineers trained to meet the challenges, as we prepare for future human space exploration missions," NASA said in a statement.

NSCOR differs from an individual grant award by incorporating a number of complementary research projects. NASA said that the solicitation for proposals on "Estimation of Solid Tumor Cancer Risks" drew 11 proposals.

Vala Sciences (La Jolla, California) reported that it has established itself as a provider of cell image-based reagents and analysis software tools to academic, biotech and pharmaceutical scientists.

Vala reports that it has obtained $3.5 million in grants and angel investments, including two National Institutes of Health (NIH; Bethesda, Maryland) Small Business Innovation Research grants: one for assay development, the other for cell image-based software analysis. The company also has obtained funding from the California Technology Investment Partnership Program (CALTIP) and private individual investors.

Vala was founded in 2004 to develop cell imaging analysis tools and assays that enable information-rich, high-throughput measurements for obtaining new insights into cell function and screening for new pharmaceutical agents. Vala said that, since March 2004, it has been developing cell image-based reagent systems and software programs enabling the high throughput, quantitative analysis of images generated on any fluorescence microscope or high throughput cellular imaging system.

Vala said its technology converts labor-intensive observations of cell images into measurements delivered in minutes. Its core scientific and engineering team hails from Q3DM (San Diego), a developer of high throughput image analysis instrumentation and software that was acquired by Beckman Coulter (Fullerton, California) in December 2003.

Jeffrey Price, PhD, founder, chairman and CEO of Vala, said, "We founded Vala Sciences to automate what now takes researchers weeks of time to accomplish. We took our experience developing the Q3DM microscopy system and software and are now applying that knowledge to create a platform-independent software suite that can quickly and quantitatively analyze one or thousands of microscopy images per experiment."

Vala reports having collaborations with the Chemical Genomics Research Consortium of the Gulf Coast Consortia and with The Burnham Institute (La Jolla, California) to develop a variety of assays in several areas of research.