Virginia Tech wins $1M NSF Grant to further DNA Fabrication Efficiancy
A team from Virginia Tech has been awarded a three-year, $1 Million grant from The National Science Foundation (NSF) to optimize the laboratory processes used to make custom DNA molecules with the tools and methods of industrial engineering. The interdisciplinary team led by Jean Peccoud, associate professor at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute also includes Kimberly Ellis and Jaime Camelio, associate professors in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, at Virginia Tech.
“The reward of this project is a much-needed increase in productivity of the life science research enterprise. Our national R&D infrastructure needs to be more fiscally responsible in these times of constrained budgets. In order to enhance U.S. competitiveness, it is necessary to find ways of producing more data, more discoveries, and more applications with stable or shrinking resources,” said Peccoud. “We are proposing a change of paradigm in laboratory management that will enable American biotechnology companies to create manufacturing jobs for people who did not have a chance to receive a college education.”
The concept of DNA fabrication has its roots in synthetic biology, an emerging area of biological research that applies engineering methods to design, build, and characterize artificial biological systems that meet user-defined specifications. DNA fabrication combines natural and chemically synthetized DNA fragments together in order to make larger DNA molecules that conform to computer-designed sequences.
“This project will provide unique cross-training opportunities in biology and engineering for undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows,” said Camelio, director of the Virginia Tech graduate program in Industrial and Systems Engineering. “It will give industrial engineering students an opportunity to explore a new frontier. Life science students will gain exposure to management techniques that will help them streamline the operation of their labs in academia or industry after they graduate.”