UB's Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics recently forged an international partnership with Biopharma Ireland, the country's new national institute of biopharmaceutical research and development. The alliance paves the center's way toward an international reputation in biomedical sciences.
Both UB and Columbia University have been named academic partners with the institute. UB is the primary partner for biotechnology and pharmaceutical initiatives, said UB Senior Vice Provost Bruce Holm.
Last month, Holm accompanied Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., on a trip to Ireland with business and academic leaders from both the United States and Ireland to announce the partnership.
"International partners are key for the center, because science is international and we are a global economy," Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi stated in an e-mail. "You cannot be a leader if you are only national."
Biopharma Ireland was created by Dublin City University and the Athlone Institute of Technology. Other Irish universities and additional pharmaceutical companies, including giant Elan Pharmaceutics, have expressed interest in forming partnerships with the institute.
Biopharma Ireland's primary purpose is to help foster advances in pharmaceutics and provide a staging ground for pharmaceutical companies to enter the European market, making it essentially Ireland's equivalent of UB's bioinformatics center, said Holm.
Nine of the world's "Big 10" pharmaceutical companies have set up in Ireland, said Holm, explaining that the industry has a real interest in entering markets within the European Union. Ireland's recent advances in high technology and communication have made the country alluring to international companies looking to enter European markets.
Furthermore, the partnership will hopefully place Buffalo in the unique position of being a conduit for European pharmaceutical companies to enter North American markets because Buffalo offers key access to Ontario, Canada and New York City, said Holm.
He also said that the partnership will leverage both UB's center and Biopharma Ireland for additional grant monies from government institutions, including the National Science Foundation by sharing joint research initiatives.
The senior vice provost is working with Margarie McFarlan, a representative in Columbia's Office for Business Development, to figure out ways to land government funding from the NSF - whose policy is not to provide money to non-U.S. companies - by sharing innovative research initiatives.
"We're trying to find out funding arrangements that will benefit all these institutions, including UB," said Holm.
The partnership between UB and Ireland has roots in efforts from the Buffalo-based company Atlantic Corridor, a non-profit and transatlantic business, educational and cultural alliance.
The company was created to link the North American Free Trade Agreement economy and European markets through Ireland, Upstate New York and Southern Ontario, Canada.
The Atlantic Corridor facilitated early talks between Athlone Institute of Technology and the Hauptman-Woodward Research Institute when both were exploring possibilities of a collaborative effort in genomic research and crystallography, according to Deb O'Shea, chief executive officer for Atlantic Corridor.
"UB can play a part in research and faculty exchanges," said O'Shea. "We would like to see the fluid transfer of new technologies that could springboard both Ireland and Buffalo to international markets."
Patrick McDurmont, special advisor to the president of Dublin City University and a former Clinton administration staffer, will visit UB later this month to tour the university and discuss the joint research collaboration in biopharmaceutics.
Holm spent all of Friday in Washington, D.C. meeting with a variety of government appropriations committees and representatives from the Department of Defense. This is a busy time for the capitol, with committees meeting to determine funding for a variety of government and university initiatives, including university research proposals.
The fact that the university was granted meetings with government officials during such a hectic time of year illustrates that bioinformatics is high on their agenda, said Holm.