News Release| 23rd Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium; Cal State L.A.

Cal State L.A. Professor Howard Xu to Receive ‘Anthony Andreoli Faculty Service Award’ during CSU’s 23rd Annual Biotechnology Symposium in Anaheim

Symposium to include DNA analysis, healthcare solutions, student-industry networking

Anaheim, CA — Howard Xu, Cal State L.A.’s (CSULA) award-winning professor of microbiology, will receive California State University’s (CSU) Anthony Andreoli Faculty Service Award on Saturday, Jan. 8, during the CSU 23rd Annual Biotechnology Symposium in Anaheim.

Xu will join students, faculty and colleagues from 21 other California State University (CSU) campuses to present research on genes, proteins, cancers, crops, water quality and more at the symposium, which takes place Jan. 7 and 8 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County.

Pictured: CSULA Professor Howard Xu in his research lab at La Kretz Hall.

Xu, who will be honored for his outstanding contributions to biotechnology research and education, has been integral to the CSU’s development of a Professional Science Master’s program in biotechnology.

“I’m surprised, humbled and honored to win this award. This is not just a reflection on me and my work, but also on my faculty colleagues in the department, our partners, and Cal State L.A. as a whole for the support the University has provided me since I came here over six years ago,” said Xu. “But most importantly, this award reflects the hard work of my students. They are the stars and the motivation for me to be here as a teacher and scholar.”

Continually on the hunt with his students and colleagues for novel new drugs, Xu is an expert in antibacterial drug discovery, clinical microbiology, and bacterial genomics. Along with the educational benefits, their work is also critical in helping fill the growing void in research and development of antibiotics created by drug companies that are moving away from early-stage research due to low profits.

“Since people who take antibiotics do so, on average, for only a week and then don’t need them anymore, there isn’t a lot of profit for pharmaceutical companies in the research and development of these drugs. In fact, most of the big drug companies are getting out of the ‘discovery’ phase of antibiotics research altogether,” explained Xu.

He continued, “The limited number of small biotechnology companies focusing on antibiotics are mostly struggling to survive due to the poor investment market. However, fortunately for us, large pharmaceutical and biotech companies alike would be interested in licensing drug candidates that are discovered elsewhere, such as in our labs and other academic institutions.”

Coming from throughout the CSU, students will present 236 research posters at the symposium. Topics include biofilms, biofuels, cancer-suppressing compounds, stem cells, molecular aspects of dementia and diabetes, DNA repair, HIV and other viruses, drug-resistant bacteria and other microbes, plasma-membrane pumps, and new tools to study protein conformation (the precise folding that determines function).

In the running for an important accolade at the symposium will be CSULA biochemistry major Donja Brown, who has been selected a 2011 Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award finalist.

Studying the role of arginine residues in enhancing an antifreeze protein from the beetle Dendroides candensis, Brown hopes to understand how the protein works as an adaptive mechanism for many organisms in cold environmental conditions.

“The results of the research will prove valuable for a variety of applications, such as crops grown in cold weather, food that is frozen for storage and transport, and tissues preserved for transplant,” said Brown. “Antifreeze proteins allow plants, animals and bacteria to survive in sub-zero environments by stopping ice crystals from forming.”

Brown will present her research project during the symposium on Saturday, Jan. 8, 9:25-9:40 a.m.

With roughly 500 CSU students and faculty joining nearly 100 industry professionals, community college representatives and elected officials, the symposium is the major annual event dedicated to developing emerging and future biotechnology researchers in California.

The symposium will also feature expert panels of scientists, engineers and journalists addressing healthcare solutions for the developing world, public understanding of human DNA analysis, and the commercialization of life-science innovations. CSU scholars will also discuss innovative research on using databases to discover new drugs, biogeochemistry and cellular physiology, and insulin production in pancreatic cells.

The symposium also includes networking sessions for students and workshops for faculty.

It is sponsored by the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), which coordinates and supports biotechnology efforts throughout the CSU and serves as the CSU’s primary liaison to industry and academic partners in the realm.

CSUPERB Executive Director Susan Baxter said the interface with industry speakers and expert panelists allows faculty-student teams to “stay connected to the grand challenges.”

“They can see how discoveries they’ve made in the laboratory might lead to a new vaccines for childhood diseases or how applied projects might lead to improvements in bioenergy production,” Baxter said. “For many of the students, the symposium marks their first research presentation to the broader scientific community. That’s a major milestone – somewhere between their first science fair and a job as a scientist or engineer or a future PhD.”

Students, researchers, professionals and others interested in the symposium biotechnology may register for the symposium at www.calstate.edu/csuperb/symposium/2011.

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