BLACKSBURG, Va., Jun. 23, 2003 - Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) researchers Reinhard Laubenbacher, Pedro Mendes and Vladimir Shulaev have been awarded $1 million from the National Institutes of Health. The funds will be used to develop mathematical tools to model biochemical networks from experimental data.

In particular, the experiments will focus on oxidative stress in baker’s yeast, known scientifically as Saccharomyces cervisiae. Oxidative stress is a general biological phenomenon common to all aerobically grown organisms, from bacteria to humans, that essentially causes aging and degeneration.

According to a report by Laubenbacher and colleagues, “Yeast cells have evolved a variety of mechanisms to protect themselves from the damaging effect of oxidative stress.” Since baker’s yeast is safe, easy to culture and well studied, it will act as a model to develop novel strategies for coping with many disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

In addition, the grant will provide funds for high school students and undergraduates from economically-depressed areas in southwestern Virginia to receive training and preparation for bioinformatics studies. Out-of-town students will receive room and board at Virginia Tech, as well as a stipend for their participation.

About VBI
VBI research platform centers on understanding the “disease triangle” of host-pathogen-environment interactions. With bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary merger of information technology and biology, faculty researchers at VBI have been able to interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research. With over $27 million in research funding, VBI researchers are working to find cures for many diseases of humans, crops, and animals; create high-yield, insect- and disease-resistant crops; and provide bioinformatics information and tools to support further discoveries.

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Published by Public Relations, June 22, 2003