Biology Dept. Gains $100,000 for Genetic Analysis System
Jacksonville State University's biology department recently
gained a $100,000 grant for a state-of-the art genomic research system
that professors say will aid students and faculty in conducting several
types of research including clinical drug development.
Beckman Coulter, Inc., a manufacturer of biomedical testing
instrument systems and supplies, awarded JSU $49,450 as part of its
largest type of matching grant. The university provided the other matching
The funds will be used toward purchasing a GenomeLab CEQ™
8000 Genetic Analysis System, an instrument designed to assist essential
biomedical research aimed at improving healthcare and the field of medicine
around the world.
According to Dr. Mark A. Meade, assistant professor of
biology, JSU was one of the first schools to be offered the full matching
“The company usually only matches about a quarter or
so of the funds. We are one out of maybe a half dozen schools which
were fully funded in recent years,” he said.
"The decision was based on the fact that our undergraduate
program here at JSU focuses on research and because we have a strong
master’s research program that emphasizes molecular techniques and molecular
The GenomeLab CEQ™ 8000 is a complete unit, which can
be incorporated into classes immediately. It can perform a range of
research functions and be applied to multiple projects such as DNA sequencing.
“This is the type of equipment you would expect to find
in a pharmaceutical research company or any kind of group that’s doing
genomic research,” Meade said. “It’s a turnkey genetic analysis system
which is really self-automated and user friendly.”
Biology department professors will be prioritizing the
use of the equipment for teaching students who want to be researchers
in the field of genomics, microbiology, cancer research, or who work
toward making other medical discoveries.
“This sets us above most colleges our size,” said Dr.
Frank Romano, biology department head. “Most schools don’t have this
kind of equipment. It will certainly advance our capabilities in the
area of genomic research and allow us to perform studies we’ve never
been able to do in the past.”
Said Mead, “All of us that teach [biology] courses here
have an application for this equipment. It’s going to be widely used
in our classes.”
Meade, along with several of his colleagues, Drs. Benjamin
Blair, LaJoyce Debro, and Mijitaba Hamissou, helped write the grant
application to secure the funding and will be using the instrument in
their programs as well.
One such project involves studying red snappers, whose
populations are rapidly declining. The red snapper is one the most popular
sport and commercial fish in Alabama’s Gulf Coast waters. Concerns about
declining snapper populations first surfaced more than 20 years ago.
Students and faculty from JSU are collaborating with Dr. Ron Phelps
of Auburn University to improve culture of these fish. They will use
the GenomeLab to isolate and study the bacterial flora in the red snapper
gut, which Meade says may be playing a role in the decline of the fishes’
“This will really strengthen our research and push our
programs to a whole new level,” he said.
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