Superfund Research Program
SRP Participates in Small Business Innovation Conference
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., was a part of the NIEHS delegation to the National Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Conference May 15 - 17 in Washington, D.C. The SBIR/STTR conference was held jointly with the TechConnect World Innovation Conference, an annual event designed to accelerate commercialization of innovative products.
As part of the program, Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., an SRP grantee at the University of Kentucky, spoke about his work to develop advanced water membrane technologies. He discussed how these membranes can be used to capture metals and degrade other pollutants to reduce contamination of aquifers and provide safe drinking water. The technical program highlighted new tools and devices from industrial, government, and academic laboratories worldwide.
The conference provides a way for technology developers to learn about the small business research grant programs offered by 11 federal agencies. In addition to presentations about the SBIR/STTR application process, the conference featured one-on-one meetings between federal representatives and potential applicants seeking insight and tips for successful applications. As a participant in the meetings, Henry provided guidance about SRP's small business research program, which fosters commercialization of technologies, products, and devices related to detecting or cleaning up hazardous substances.
SRP Highlighted at Data Science Symposium
Superfund Research Program (SRP) representatives provided the environmental health perspective on big data at an NIH data science symposium May 16 - 18 in Cincinnati. The symposium was hosted by the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) and Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) Data Coordination and Integration Center.
The BD2K-LINCS Data Science Symposium brought together scientists from academia, industry, and government to talk about using large datasets to improve drug development, biomedicine, and environmental health research.
SRP Health Scientist Administrator Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., presented NIEHS efforts to understand what people are exposed to in the environment and whether those exposures affect our health. She discussed such issues as the timing of exposure and the organ or tissue that may be affected by it.
She also discussed how big data may be used to estimate how the body responds to multiple chemicals. For example, she described the NIEHS-funded Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD), a compilation of manually curated data about interactions between chemicals, genes, and diseases. With the CTD, researchers can identify different chemicals that lead to changes to genes and proteins in the body. By integrating these data with information about molecular pathways, they can also identify whether these changes are linked to human diseases.
Heacock also provided an overview of the SRP and described how diverse types of SRP data may be used together. She encouraged researchers to leverage existing data and to share their data with other scientists.
Stefano Monti, Ph.D., a professor at the Boston University (BU) School of Public Health and a BU SRP Center grantee, discussed his work using large datasets to screen for chemicals that may cause cancer. He highlighted his collaboration with the NIEHS National Toxicology Program using computational models to predict long-term cancer risk based on data from short-term exposure studies. This project is a step toward simpler and cheaper tests to screen chemicals for cancer risk.
Monti and Heacock also participated in a panel that focused on improving the use of big data in environmental health science.
SRP Trainees Host Super FUN: Science for a Safer World Booth at Cal Day
On April 22, trainees from the University of California (UC) Berkeley Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center hosted a booth, "Super FUN: Science for a Safer World," at the annual Cal Day celebration. The popular event, which promotes various programs and activities at UC Berkeley, attracts thousands of people, including students, faculty and staff, families, and school groups
Trainees in engineering and biology collaborated to create fun and educational materials to share the mission and achievements of the UC Berkeley SRP Center. Attendees learned what Superfund sites are, how researchers study the health effects of potentially harmful chemicals, and how they develop innovative technologies to reduce the levels of these chemicals in the environment.
Trainees also developed engaging hands-on activities. For example, visitors conducted a fun and messy experiment wherein water was first contaminated with green food coloring and then filtered through sand or activated charcoal to visualize effective remediation strategies. Older children and adults learned about the UC Berkeley SRP Center from a handout that was designed by trainees. Participants then tested their knowledge in a fun trivia challenge. Younger children learned through coloring books illustrating different aspects of the environment.