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Dr. Eric Wieben, Mayo Clinic

Six joint research projects by Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota, including "smart socks" cardiac sensors and malaria-detecting lasers, were awarded a total of $4.5 million in state funding in January.

The 11-year-old Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics selects a handful of projects proposed by pairs of researchers representing Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota each year to fund.

"The point of this is to act as seed money to get something started," explained Robert Nellis of Mayo Clinic Public Affairs. "Then after two years, while the research might not be completed, there should be something that is more than just a paper."

Dr. Eric Wieben, of Mayo Clinic, is the director of the novel program, which spurs the scientific collaboration. He says this round of projects are good representatives.

"These projects reflect strong science and the potential for real health care solutions in critical diseases," he stated in an announcement released Thursday. "The topics focus on problems either directly affecting Minnesotans or on conditions that have global impact with solutions that would be highly marketable."

• Treating ovarian cancer tumors: Dr. Paul Haluska, of Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Dan Kaufman, of the University of Minnesota, were awarded $1 million to study the effectiveness of chemotherapies on specific ovarian cancers by studying the individual genome of each tumor. The researchers will re-establish those tumors in immune-deficient mice to track the usefulness of potential new drugs.

• "Smart Socks" to track heart failure: Bruce Johnson, of Mayo Clinic, and Rajesh Rajamani, of the U of M, were awarded $559,777 to develop and test a pair of sensor-socks that people at risk for heart problems could wear to monitor changes in body weight, water gain, edema and variations in heart rate. The goal is to have a product that will detect early signs of trouble and help prevent heart attacks. The University is engineering the socks. Mayo Clinic will do the physiological tests.

• Malaria-detecting lasers: Dr. Bobbi Pritt, of Mayo Clinic, and John Bischof, of the U of M, were awarded $578,339 to develop a series of laser prototypes that can be used to enhance rapid diagnostic tests for malaria. The laser work will be done at the University and a new measurement technique will be developed at Mayo Clinic.

• Microbiotic therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: Purna Kashyap, of Mayo Clinic, and Dan Knights, of the U of M, were awarded $976,896 to find causes and therapies for irritable bowel syndrome. The study will involve 90 participants in a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic and concurrent studies in germ-free mice will be conducted at the University.

• Genomic altering tool: Stephen Ekker, of Mayo Clinic, and Dan Voytas, of U of M, were awarded $589,136 to develop a method to alter gene sequences in laboratory tests. The collaborators will use genetic research involving yeast and zebrafish to create this new tool.

• Obesity and stress triggers: Stephen Brimijoin, of Mayo Clinic, and Marilyn Carroll, of the U of M, were awarded $781,456 to continue their investigation of indicators of less stress, reduced obesity and longer life in mice. They are looking for the molecular and chemical causes of those aspects in an effort to create patentable technology to manage stress and obesity in humans.

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