NEW UALBANY INSTITUTE GETS $7.4M BOOST

Federal, state awards will fund RNA Insitute created in June

LARRY RULISON BUSINESS WRITER
Section: Business,  Page: B8

Date: Saturday, November 6, 2010

ALBANY -- The University at Albany's new RNA Institute, which was created in June, has been awarded a $5.4 million federal grant.


The money, which came from the National Institutes of Health, will be combined with $2 million from the state to design and build the institute's new $7.4 million research center on the UAlbany campus.


University officials said Friday the money gives the new institute the momentum it needs to become one of the world's premier research centers for the study of RNA, also known as ribonucleic acid.


The race to study RNA is critical to the medical community because it is a molecule that can turn genes and proteins in the body on and off.


Scientists believe RNA research holds great promise in treating high-profile diseases such as drug-resistant bacterial infections, HIV and cancer.


And college and state officials think the new RNA Institute will not only become a leader in developing key drugs but that it will be a major driver of job growth in the Capital Region.


The $7.4 million in state and federal funding is expected to create 90 permanent jobs when the research center is completed and provide 40 construction jobs during the building phase.


Architectural designs must be sent to NIH this month, with bids expected to go out in April and construction to begin in July. The center, which is located in UAlbany's Life Sciences Research Building, is expected to be completed by July 2012.


"The goal here is to spur the development of start-up companies," said UAlbany President George Philip.


The RNA Institute is a collaboration of more than 40 government and university research entities that support 250 jobs in the Capital Region. Researchers who are part of the consortium currently bring in $12 million a year in federal funding for RNA research.


"Where you want to be is where others aren't," said Edward Reinfurt, executive director of the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation. "That's what makes this so exciting."


University officials also unveiled the new RNA Mass Spectrometry Center, which will help develop RNA-based drug discoveries. Mass spectrometry is technology is used to analyze RNA.


UAlbany beat out thousands of other applicants for the NIH grant, which was only awarded to 40 others in the country.


"It's something that we've been looking forward to for a long time," said RNA Institute Director Paul Argis.


Larry Rulison can be reached at 454-5504 or by e-mail at lrulison@timesunion.com.