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Grant money boosts research, creates jobs

Gov. Andrew Cumo answered questions from the media during a recent visit to Upstate Medical University.

Gov. Andrew Cumo answered questions from the media during a recent visit to Upstate Medical University.


The Doctor of Physical Therapy program and the Nursing program at Upstate will receive a portion of the money Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making available to support workforce development in high-need career fields.

Healthcare is among the six high-need areas that the state Department of Labor projects to have a large number of openings, a high growth rate or a combination of both in the coming years. (The other five are engineering and engineering technologies, renewable clean energy, biomedical-biotechnical, agriculture and information technology.)

The DPT funding totals $181,000, and the nursing program will receive $300,000 over the next three years.

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Upstate Medical University and three partner schools (SUNY Oswego, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Onondaga Community College in Syracuse) are the recipients of a $15 million Governor‘s Challenge Grant to start an institute of environmental health and medicine.

The institute‘s goal is to improve health through understanding the impact of the environment. That will likely involve the creation of new startup companies in the early years of the program, with the creation of 651 permanent jobs, mostly in the field of wireless technology.

"This is not just about one city. It really is a regional approach to this broad area of need called environment and human health and specifically its relationship to only individuals but work sites and others," Upstate President Dr. David Smith, MD, told WRVO radio.

The SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program began two years ago, with campuses in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook receiving awards.

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Three small companies with links to Upstate will receive $200,000 to accelerate the research and development of new products.

The funding comes from the CenterStateCEO‘s Grants for Growth program that supports innovative and applied research projects between universities and industry. The funding is provided by the New York State Senate, through the support of state Sen. John DeFrancisco.

Receiving a $150,000 grant is Rapid Cure Technologies, a SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry spin-off company that is based in the Central New York Biotech Accelerator on the Upstate campus.

Rapid Cure develops specific chemistry and process solutions in the coating, adhesive, sealant and elastomer (CASE) markets. The company has developed and commercialized energy efficient and environmentally friendly plural component, ultraviolet light, and electron beam curable chemistries for various manufacturers.

Winners of $25,000 grants are Upstate spin-offs Blue Highway and Zinnia Safety Systems.

Blue Highway Inc., in collaboration with the Upstate Cancer Center, is developing a system to manage the care of cancer survivors once they return to their primary care physicians. Work on the project is being assisted by Dr. Leslie J. Kohman, MD, medical director for the cancer center, and Linda J. Veit, project manager for the center.

Dr. James Knoll, MD is developing a suicide attempt notification system.

Dr. James Knoll, MD is developing a suicide attempt notification system.


Zinnia Safety Systems, based in the CNY Biotech Accelerator, is developing a technology that will be the first medical device system development for monitoring individuals at risk for suicide. Used by hospitals and penal institutions, the system would promptly identify serious suicide attempts and notify staff to intervene before the person is seriously injured. Dr. Andrew Kaufman, MD, and Dr. James Knoll IV, MD, both on the faculty of Upstate‘s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, are the system developers.  Zinnia Safety Systems received a $50,000 SUNY Research Foundation Technology Accelerator Fund grant last year.

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A project involving scientists from Upstate and ESF that uses new synthetic enzymes to create bioethanol and has been awarded $50,000 in funding from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund.

The fund is a joint program of the State University of New York and the Research Foundation for SUNY that supports innovation by faculty, students and staff.

Leading the collaborative are Stewart N. Loh, PhD, professor and vice chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at Upstate, and Arthur Stipanovic, professor of chemistry at ESF.

“Our technology may help convert plant waste into liquid fuel for cars and trucks,” said Loh. “Not only is bioethanol renewable, it‘s more greenhouse friendly than fossil fuels. The TAF award is unique because it connects us basic researchers with partners in the biofuels industry who can help take our ideas to products.”

For their project, Loh and Stipanovic are using a set of protein building tools developed at Upstate and protein activity testing technology developed at ESF to produce synthetic cellulosomes for bioethanol production.

Cellulosomes are multi-enzyme complexes which enable certain bacteria to efficiently break down the cellulose in woody plant matter into easily digestible sugars. Likewise, synthetic cellulosomes will enable bioethanol producers to efficiently degrade cellulose-rich feedstocks, such as wood and switch grass into sugars from which ethanol can easily be produced through fermentation, thereby helping make bioethanol a cost-competitive alternative to petroleum-based gas and diesel.

The Upstate/ESF project was one of five SUNY campuses to receive the TAF awards.

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During Earth Day festivities in April, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades for Upstate that will save the campus more than $1.3 million annually and remove about 6,250 tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere every year. That‘s the equivalent of removing more than 1,180 cars from the road.

The New York Power Authority is financing and implementing the nearly $21 million project, part of the “Build Smart NY” initiative by Cuomo which aims to increase energy efficiency in state buildings by 20 percent over the next seven years.
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