$1.6 million in grants support scientific research in Pennsylvania

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C. Joel McManus, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, wants to know how recently discovered, non-protein-based human genes function and their role in autism, human development and cancer.

A new grant program by the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, a part of The Pittsburgh Foundation, will give him and other scientists in Pennsylvania the seed money to pursue basic scientific research that may eventually benefit a variety of human conditions.

The Pittsburgh Foundation announced Thursday that the Kaufman Foundation is awarding eight grants totaling $1.6 million to jump-start and support basic scientific research in Pennsylvania.

Foundation offering grants to support scientific research

The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, part of The Pittsburgh Foundation, has announced the awarding of eight grants to support scientific research in Pennsylvania. (Video by Nate Guidry; 7/25/2013)

The new grant program, which is funded by an endowment of $40 million from the estate of Mr. Kaufman, a Clarion native and chemical engineer at the Hagan and Calgon corporations, was established in 2010 to foster breakthrough research in chemistry, biology and physics.

Mr. Kaufman, who held a master's degree in chemistry from CMU and was an active entrepreneur after his retirement from Calgon in the 1970s, was 97 when he died in 2010. He was an early supporter of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and national land conservation organizations, and said he wanted to establish the scientific research support awards to "promote a better and fairer world by supporting those that can make a difference with science."

Graham Hatfull, chair of the Kaufman Foundation's scientific advisory board, which selected the grant recipients from more than 170 applicants, said the new grant program comes at a critical time for basic scientific research diminished by federal funding cutbacks.

He said federal science funding supports only 6 to 10 percent of the research projects proposed now, compared to 15 years ago when 25 to 30 percent of the research received federal funding support.

Mr. McManus, 34, will receive $150,000 over two years, allowing him to expand research into the role and functions of more than 20,000 large non-coding ribonucleic acid, or "lncRNA" for short, that until now has only been supported internally by the university.

"Research has figured out 50 or 100, but we want to develop information on all 20,000 of them at the same time," Mr. McManus said.

The 2013 New Investigator grants of $150,000 over two years were awarded to: Joel McManus, assistant professor, CMU Department of Biological Sciences; Aditya S. Khair, assistant professor, CMU Department of Chemical Engineering; Michelle Dolinski, assistant professor, Department of Physics, Drexel University; Sheereen Majd, assistant professor, Department of Bioengineering, Penn State University; William M. Wuest, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry, Temple University.

New Initiative grants were awarded to: Sergey M. Frolov, assistant professor and W. Vincent Liu, associate professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh, $242,310 over two years; Veronica Hinman, associate professor, and Jonathan Minden, professor, Department of Biological Sciences, and Bruce Alan Armitage, professor, and Danith H. Ly, associate professor, CMU Department of Chemistry, $300,000 over two years; and Christine D. Keating, professor of chemistry, and Theresa Mayer, distinguished professor of electrical engineering and materials science and engineering at Penn State, $300,000 over two years.

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Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983. First Published July 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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