Georgetown University Medical Center announced yesterday a new partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to allow for more comprehensive biomedical research.

The comprehensive research and development agreement, signed this month, will make it easier for collaboration between scientists in both organizations.

“Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the federal government’s largest science and energy laboratory, and has a number of capabilities that are important to helping expand our opportunities in biomedical research,” said Howard Federoff, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the school of medicine.

“We are very pleased to establish this relationship with such an outstanding medical research institution and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Georgetown University Medical Center,” Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Thom Mason said in a press release.

ORNL is able to provide advanced technologies to help Georgetown scientists study complex molecular data, Federoff said.

There are a number of collaborative projects underway between the Medical Center and ORNL. Stephen Byers, a professor of oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center, and Gary Van Berkel, a staff scientist of ORNL, are working together to design new ways to measure biomolecules, which can be used in cancer diagnosis. For the study, ORNL is able to provide high-performance facilities, the world’s largest neutron scattering devices, as well as other helpful scientific resources.

“No single university or non-governmental institution can do any of these things, as they are cost-prohibitive,” Byers said.

Zofia Zukowska, professor and chair of the physiology and biophysics department, is currently working with staff scientist Brynn Voy of ORNL to study genetic and mechanistic relationships between adverse reactions to stress and risk for obesity.

“This collaboration is important since it combines complementary expertise of two institutions,” Zukowska said. “Together, we will be highly competitive for larger federal grants.”

For now, the agreement will be valid for five years according to the press release.

“The collaboration will go where we take it. In addition to the current projects, we have plans to explore together other sources of external funding, both at the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies,” Laura Cavender, director of communications for the Georgetown University Medical Center, said.

ORNL is the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory and is located in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

According to the press release, the organization has more than 4,000 scientists, 3,000 guest researchers and 1.2 billion dollars in federal funding.

Talks about a partnership between Georgetown and ORNL first began about a year ago. According to Cavender, ORNL initially approached Georgetown because it wanted to affiliate with an academic institution to study biological problems. In this collaboration, Georgetown is able to provide the molecular and clinical data while ORNL provides the physical resources to process the large amount of data.

“With the decoding of the human genome, it has become possible to collect and study vast quantities of molecular data, which can help us better understand human health and disease,” Federoff said. “But in order to be able to truly understand and analyze this data, then apply it to medicine, we need cutting-edge computing data processing capabilities – which ORNL provides.”

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