AR-BIC 2018 Recap

The 4th annual meeting of the Arkansas Bioinformatics Consortium (AR-BIC) was successfully held March 23-24 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Attended by over 200 participants, AR-BIC 2018 was made possible through the generous support from a conference grant awarded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), sponsorships by the major Arkansas research universities in this field – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), University of Arkansas (UA), University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA-Little Rock), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), and Arkansas State University (A-State) – along with the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI) and TriNetX. The Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) acted as the lead organizer in addition to providing core sponsorship resources. This year’s overarching theme was “Data Analytics for Genomics and Beyond.”

AR-BIC was founded to foster a collaborative, Arkansas-based community in bioinformatics research and education among federal and academic institutions. Over the past few years, AR-BIC has gained tremendous momentum and popularity among the Arkansas scientific research community, which is evident by the increased number of participants each year.

The AR-BIC annual meeting has become the largest Arkansas bioinformatics gathering, which not only provides an opportunity for networking, collaborating and sharing ideas, but also a platform to highlight the excellent research conducted statewide. This year’s meeting was especially extraordinary as it announced the formation of the AR-BIC Governing Board and was heralded by a video greeting from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who highlighted the contribution and impact AR-BIC has made on the improvement of the state’s economy and research environment.

The two-day event opened with a pre-conference workshop by TriNetX, which, in addition to being a network of academic medical centers and pharma companies who collaborate on clinical trials, provide a technology application to access clinical trial cohort data. Plenary talks centered on generalized data analytics of genomics data, textual data, business data, and chemical data by eleven internationally renowned scientists located in Arkansas, and by two visiting scientists from Argonne National Lab, Illinois, and East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.

Arkansas-based plenary speakers were graciously provided by NCTR, UA-Little Rock, UA, and UAMS. AR-BIC also hosted two speakers from the corporate sector – J.B. Hunt (logistics technology) and MISO (energy grid management). Each speaker shared data-analytics trends in their areas of expertise, along with strategies and methodologies they employ using a different range of data – from genomics and textual to chemical and business. Striking similarities were discovered in the underlying data analytics methodologies across all types of sectors, a promising segue for future collaboration among data scientists from state universities and business.

In addition, more than 30 posters were presented, predominantly by students from the partner universities, providing them an important training opportunity, and sparking continued conversations throughout the consortium. AR-BIC members hailed from all corners of the state, arriving from NCTR, UA-Little Rock, UAMS, A-State, UA, UAPB, and USDA. The full conference program can be accessed at http://www.aralliance.org/ar-bic.

With this success, we are now planning AR-BIC 2019, to be hosted February 25-26, 2019, at UAMS.

 

ARA president Jerry Adams sits down with Roby Brock and Talk Business

Arkansas Research Alliance was founded in 2008, and according to president Jerry Adams, the mandate for the hardworking agency has evolved over the decade.  “Originally I thought I’d be sitting in the tech licensing office for our five research universities, watching intellectual property go across,” mused Jerry Adams, speaking with Roby Brock and Talk Business, “but it’s turned into us being much more focused on talent recruitment, recognition and retention.

While “intellectual property” is still a focal point, ARA has become a major conduit between Arkansas’ research campuses, the state’s science community and economic decision makers. During the interview, Mr. Adams highlighted some of the compelling research conducted in Arkansas, which includes advancements in bacteria-resistant artificial bone from Dr. Alex Biris (UA Little Rock) and Dr. Mark Smeltzer (UAMS), developing electric energy solutions from Dr. Alan Mantooth (University of Arkansas) and efforts to genetically strengthen rice against global warming from Dr. Argelia Lorence (Arkansas State).

“There’s a lot of collaboration, a lot of unique innovation, going on between the state universities,” said Mr. Adams, who also touches on ARA’s unique relationship with the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) and the ARA Academy.

“I think the Academy is how we’re going to be identified going forward,” said Mr. Adams. Watch the interview in its entirety here.

 

 

Breakthrough: 3 Ways Liquid Biopsy Can Revolutionize Treatment for Lung Cancer

Each year, 215,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer. The epidemic is especially burdensome to Arkansas with death rates far higher than the national average. A lung biopsy – an invasive procedure needed to diagnose lung cancer – is both uncomfortable, risky for the patient, and expensive. But promising research conducted by in-state institutions is changing the game.

Through a partnership between UAMS, UA Little Rock, UAPB, UA, Arkansas Research Alliance, and the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), a new technique is being developed for diagnosing lung cancer – liquid biopsy. Unlike traditional biopsies, liquid biopsy is non-invasive, performed through a routine blood draw.

How does this pioneering medical research impact Arkansas? We’ll give you three reasons.

  1. A significant cut in medical costs. Nearly 2,800 Arkansans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. The average cost of a traditional lung biopsy is $3,700. A liquid biopsy, which is not a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia, is far less expensive.
  2. Treatment (and outcomes) will improve. Liquid biopsies grant caregivers the unique ability to regularly monitor a patient’s response to therapy. In addition, disease recurrence is detected much sooner by a liquid biopsy versus conventional medical imaging.
  3. Arkansas receives an economic shot in the arm. The state is just scratching the surface of medical innovation and drug discovery, a multi-billion dollar industry. Innovations like liquid biopsy position Arkansas as an emerging med-tech hot spot.

Arkansas Research Alliance collaborates closely with in-state research institutions like UAMS, NCTR and the state’s other research universities so that science is allowed to flourish. Supporting research like liquid biopsy is crucial to Arkansas’ economy, reputation and health.

Arkansas State University pays a visit to NCTR

On February 5, a research contingent from Arkansas State University dropped in for an official visit to the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR). Located in Jefferson County, AR, NCTR is the only FDA center located outside of Washington D.C, playing a critical role in the missions of FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to promote and protect public health.

Dr. Angel Paredes demonstrates one of five electron microscopes used at NCTR.

Visiting from A-State was Dr. Mohammad Abrar Alam, assistant professor of chemistry and Dr. Jonathan Merten, assistant professor of chemistry. The two professors wished to foster valuable collaboration between Arkansas State’s research programs and the host of resources available at NCTR.

Arkansas Research Alliance works diligently to facilitate meaningful collaborations between the state’s scientists, research facilities and government agencies. ARA’s efforts not only strengthen the state’s scientific profile, but helps to aid Arkansas’ economy through innovation and talent retention. Keep updated on ARA projects by joining our LinkedIN page.