Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

For nearly a decade, Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) has been a national pacesetter for fundamental and applied research in biotechnology. Faculty and students within the center have made world-changing discoveries, developed applications, and launched commercial ventures related to a range of globally important topics including drug safety, Alzheimer's disease, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.

Uncharted territory explored at CBIS is at the interface of the life sciences, physical sciences, computation, and engineering. And it is at this frontier where the Rensselaer IDEA will best help advance and elevate the mission of CBIS.

The first target will be biologics, an area of distinct strength within CBIS based on the data-driven understanding of proteomics, protein regulation, and gene regulation. Still an emerging field, biologics has yielded promising new advancements for treating different ailments. It involves using biocatalysis and synthetic biology tools to block or supplement the actions of specific cells or proteins in the immune system.

The use of data-driven approaches also stands to boost research taking place at Rensselaer related to drug repurposing, which looks at existing biologics or molecules already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or for use in studies, and seeks to identify new ways in which they can be used to treat different diseases or conditions.

High-throughput screening-a data-intensive technique used to identify the unique protein "fingerprint" of an individual's healthy or diseased tissue, which can help the process of diagnosing an illness or regenerating tissue-is another area that will benefit from the types of common data toolsets being created within the Rensselaer IDEA, Vashishth says.

These and other research challenges are milestones on the path to truly personalized medicine, where physicians and surgeons are able to make increasingly objective decisions based on each patient's unique biology and informed by fast, accurate computer simulations.

Personalized medicine is really the holy grail of biotechnology and other health-related research taking place at Rensselaer and around the world. The importance of data in this endeavor cannot be overstated.

Another important element undergirding the connection of CBIS and the Rensselaer IDEA is the partnership between Rensselaer and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The two institutions announced a formal affiliation agreement in May 2014 to collaborate on educational programs, research, and the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments that promote human health. As part of the affiliation, Rensselaer and Mount Sinai will leverage their respective supercomputing systems, and the data technologies realized thereon, to quickly and efficiently produce sophisticated computer algorithms that analyze genomic data and develop predictive models of disease, which in turn can better help diagnose and treat patients.

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