Biology Intensive Orientation Session (BIOS)

The Biology Intensive Orientation Session (BIOS) is a rigorous academic program designed to enhance the success of first-year students in life science majors. BIOS immerses incoming students in college-level biology coursework, and encourages interactions among academically like-minded students in the week just before the Fall semester. The BIOS experience includes lectures, discussions, writing and test experiences and engagement in a group project for presentation. Students are also embedded in campus life and become familiar with dorm living, dining halls, the layout of campus. Most importantly students meet each other, work together on challenging projects, and have a chance to develop friendships and study groups that can last for their entire college career and beyond. For more information about BIOS, please contact Susan Clevenger (suec@bio.umass.edu, 413-545-2287).

Hazen and Harrington Receive Two Grants to Develop Crop Biotechnology Venture

Plant growth is in part determined by a network of genes that influence total biomass yield. By studying the regulatory mechanisms of how plants build themselves, the Hazen Laboratory has identified ways to potentially boost energy crop yield. Professor Samuel Hazen and Postdoctoral Fellow Michael J. Harrington have been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). The NSF Innovation Corp program award of $50,000 is designed to extend the basic laboratory research to entrepreneurial ventures. By participating in this program they will explore product opportunities and a business development plan. The MassCEC provided a $40,000 catalyst award to test what they have learned in their laboratory model, the small grass Brachypodium distachyon, in energy crop species.

Sandra Roy Receives Fellowship

Sandra Roy, Ph.D. candidate in animal biotechnology and biomedical sciences, has been a research fellow and lab manager in Margaret Riley’s laboratory since 2009, where she has studied bacteriocins, toxins that bacteria produce to attack other closely related bacteria, particularly those that are active against Gram negative strains. Riley, Roy and colleagues formed the company Bacteriotix in 2010 to investigate the use of bacteriocins as new drug candidates for treating these infections. The fellowship will allow Roy to expand her basic laboratory research on catheter-acquired urinary tract infection (CAUTI) interventions to include proof-of-concept studies on the most promising drug candidates. This will include purifying bacteriocins to the level required for a manufacturer to use them in a test batch for FDA-required safety and efficacy studies.Roy, Riley and colleagues have engaged Pheromonicin Biotech USA, Inc. to commercialize this product and the fellowship should accelerate the process.

Read the News & Media Relations article here.

UMass Amherst Allows Maine-based ImmuCell Corp. the Right to License New Bacteriocin Technology

AMHERST, Mass. – The ImmuCell Corp. of Portland, Maine, announced today that it has entered into an exclusive agreement to license new bacteriocin technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, developed by biologist Margaret Riley and colleagues, internationally recognized researchers in antibiotics.

This technology focuses on bacteriocins, which are toxins that bacteria produce to attack other closely related bacteria. In particular, ImmuCell will focus on those that are active against gram negative strains that cause mastitis in dairy cattle, an infection the company calls the most significant cause of economic loss to the dairy industry. The collaboration will broaden the company’s pipeline of bacteriocin molecules that provide an alternative to traditional antibiotics.

Riley says, “I am delighted with our collaboration with ImmuCell, a company that shares our vision of a 21st century antibiotic arsenal rich with drugs that target the infecting agents, while leaving the commensal microbiome intact and thus reducing the selective intensity for antibiotic resistance.”

Read the News & Media Relations article here.

Hepler Named Honorary Fellow of Royal Microscopial Society

Peter Hepler, professor emeritus of biology has been named an honorary fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, the highest award offered by the organization. Hepler is being recognized for his contributions to the applications of light and electron microscopy to the plant sciences. “Throughout his career he has remained at the forefront of new developments and has produced a number of cutting-edge papers detailing his novel and inspiring research,” said the RMS announcement.

Helper was one of the first scientists to apply the new glutaraldehyde fixation to plant cells, revealing for the first time, bundles of microtubules under the plasma membrane of developing tracheary elements. He was also the first plant scientist to employ microinjection techniques to study the incorporation of fluorescent tubulin into microtubules in cells.

Hepler and the two other new honorary fellows were announced at the Botanical Microscopy Meeting held this week at Exeter University in the U.K..

Read the News & Media Relations article here.