Vladimir Shulaev, research associate professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech, recently received a $175,373 equipment grant from Beckman Coulter Inc. of Fullerton, Calif. Shulaev will use the equipment to catalogue small biological molecules, called metabolites, in an effort to further our knowledge of human health, disease, and treatment.

Shulaev and other metabolomics researchers study the small molecules that carry out much of the business of biological cells. These molecules include lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, hormones, amino acids, and sugars, among others. Cataloging these molecules provides researchers the opportunity to find new disease markers, pinpoint drugs that cause organ damage, or highlight groups of people who might respond poorly to a given drug.

Shulaev will analyze the data from his research to identify and compare the differences in metabolites. "We hope to use metabolite profiles," said Shulaev, "as an indicator of disease states or find novel metabolites that can be used to improve human health and nutrition."

Shulaev is examining malaria in particular and hopes to use his research to find novel therapeutic targets to treat the disease. The equipment from Beckman Coulter has expanded the analytical platforms for VBI and will help to develop novel tools for metabolite profiling. "We are excited about Beckman Coulter's investment in bioinformatics in general as well as their good faith gesture to VBI," Shulaev said.

The equipment will be used to develop an integrated metabolomics platform to complement VBI's existing expertise in genomics and proteomics and to further strengthen its position among the leading bioinformatics research centers in the world. The equipment includes a BiomekÒ 2000 Automation Workstation, Capillary Electrophoresis System, centrifuge, and spectrophotometer.

Beckman Coulter Inc. is a leading provider of instrument systems and complementary products that simplify and automate laboratory processes. From integrated laboratory automation solutions to centrifuges and blood analyzers to diagnostic rapid-test kits, the company's products are used throughout the world in all phases of the battle against disease. Annual sales for the company totaled $2.06 billion in 2002. Beckman Coulter has offices in 130 countries around the world.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 170 academic degree programs.

VBI was created at Virginia Tech in 2000. VBI's research platform centers on understanding the "disease triangle" or host-pathogen-environment interactions. With bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary merger of information technology and biology, VBI researchers have interpreted and applied vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research. With almost $40 million in research funding at present, VBI researchers are working to find cures for many diseases of humans, crops, and animals; create high-yield, insect- and disease-resistant crops; and provide bioinformatics information and tools to support further discoveries. VBI's two facilities house the institute's solid core of bioinformatics research programs and services. Bioinformatics Facility I is located at the corner of Washington Street and Duckpond Drive on Virginia Tech's campus. VBI's Research Building XV is located adjacent to Virginia Tech's campus in the Corporate Research Center. For more information about VBI, visit https://www.vbi.vt.edu.

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