Spring 2014 Newsletter


Upcoming Events

Annual VBSA Member Meeting

Tuesday, March 11, 3:00–4:30 pm, Vermont Chamber of Commerce, 751 Granger Road, Barre

Bio Beer—in March and again in MayDrinking-Beer sm

Thursday, March 13, 5 pm at the Mule Bar, 38 Main St, Winooski

Thursday, May 8, 5 pm at the Queen City Brewing Tasting Room, 703 Pine Street, Burlington

Network and unwind with your colleagues at one of both of our Spring Bio Beers. These events are very informal. Whether you’re new to the Vermont biosciences community or want to catch up with old acquaintances—this is your chance to hang out with other people who are interested in bioscience.

Invention2Venture (I2V) Conference

Thursday, April 2, 2014, 1–5 pm at the UVM Davis Center, Silver Maple Ballroom

Read more below in News from UVM

The conference is free of charge, but registration is required.



Attend the Annual Member Meeting

We encourage all VBSA members to attend the annual meeting, March 11 from 3–4:30 pm at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce in Berlin. We’ll discuss typical board business, plus we will elect officers and discuss our 2014 program. Business and education members have voting privileges.

Officer candidates are nominated by the Board of Directors. If you would like to be considered as an officer or board member, please contact Susan Fayette.

Join the VBSA

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Expand your professional network and keep current on news and opportunities in bioscience right here in Vermont. Tiered membership dues for businesses, individuals, educational and public service organizations are available and membership is free for students and teachers at the elementary and high school levels.

Check our website for more on the benefits of joining the VBSA and to sign up. (

THANK YOU to our Renewing Members and Sponsors

To the businesses and organizations who have recently renewed their membership—Thank you for supporting the bioscience industry in Vermont.

Big thanks as well to our sponsoring organizations.

Member Spotlight

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Building a Scientific Research Culture in Vermont

Students working on an experiment during a VGN Outreach Core module (mini course)

Students working on an experiment during a VGN Outreach Core module (mini course)

Too often we read about expensive government programs that fail to accomplish their aims. This article, however, describes a resounding success—the Vermont Genetics Network (VGN)—plus it’s a bargain (relatively speaking) at $16.5M over 5 years. UVM Distinguished Professor Dr. Judith Van Houten is the principal investigator who has secured funding to create and maintain the VGN, which is now in year 4 of its latest 5-year grant from the NIH, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) initiative (that’s a mouthful!). Vermont is one of 23 states (plus Puerto Rico) in the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, which is designed to “foster health-related research and enhance the competitiveness of investigators at institutions located in states in which the aggregate success rate for applications to NIH has historically been low”. The VGN has been working since 2001 to promote bioscience research in Vermont through extensive outreach efforts, microarray and proteomics facilities, and a bioinformatics core. The University of Vermont serves as the lead institute for the VGN, with partner institutions Castleton, Johnson, and Lyndon State Colleges; Norwich University; and Middlebury, Saint Michael’s, and Green Mountain Colleges currently in the network.

A key feature of VGN’s grant agreement is that the majority of the funds (60%) go to partner institutions; for the current grant period, this translates to approximately $1.5 million per year. Faculty members submit competitive proposals to the VGN for $25,000 pilot program or $75,000 research project awards, echoing one of the main goals of the program, to “enhance competitiveness for national funding.” The 17 pilot programs and 31 research projects funded to date were used for materials, small equipment, and in some cases, release from teaching time so faculty can include space in their schedules for research activities. The equipment available from the VGN cores is very helpful in getting new research programs off the ground, but equally important is the network of experienced researchers who run the VGN and its core facilities. In fact, before using any of the UVM-based resources, most users are required to sit down with a staff member to review their experimental design, which helps researchers to learn new techniques, understand their options and anticipate the results they can expect. This approach serves to make the most of the network’s resources.

IMG_6333-EditAnother important focus for the VGN is the outreach core. They use a combination of strategies to enhance and support scientific research and curriculum at VGN’s partner institutions. First, the outreach team offers three “modules” or mini-courses that correspond to the three VGN cores. So far, over 650 undergraduate students have been exposed to cutting edge biomedical research techniques through these courses. Students in the bioinformatics module, for example, are each assigned a genetic disease. The lessons each week explore successive steps in data mining current biological databases; students then piece together a scientific poster that outlines the cause and nature of the condition, from the genetic basis through to the aberrant protein structure. The VGN also offers workshops for faculty and students that outreach-core members bring to partner institution campuses for individualized “seminars, tutorials, technical training or troubleshooting.” According to Janet Murray, the outreach core director (and Vermont Biosciences Alliance board member), one of the best things about the VGN is that everyone involved fully supports the organization’s mission and is willing to do whatever it takes to help achieve it.

greg and JanetAccordingly, VGN staff “wear a lot of different hats” and offer a depth of scientific and curriculum support that has launched a growing research culture at partner institutions. Administrators are seeing the benefits and importance of fostering active scientific investigation and students directly benefit as well. VGN has funded the research of 219 undergraduates at partner colleges. For researchers at the partner institutions, the VGN core facilities offer not just scientific equipment and analysis tools, but the support faculty members’ need to expand their research programs. For example, a psychologist is now measuring testosterone levels in test subjects and an exercise physiologist is analyzing blood samples for changes in proteomic profile. “We’ve been successful in terms of increasing the number of active research programs at smaller colleges around the state, and now our researchers are starting to submit grant proposals and receive outside funding,” says Janet Murray. The faculty are so successful in fact, that there is a growing need for grant management support throughout the network.

As the VGN continues to move toward long-term sustainability, researchers who use the core facilities are picking up more of the cost for their experiments and VGN staff are increasingly focused on research support, rather than building infrastructure. More resources on writing successful grant proposals are also in the works. Ironically these plans for the future depend on the VGN submitting its own successful grant application in June 2014. If grants are awarded based on past performance, the VGN’s proposal will certainly be a winner.

—written by Lori Martin Buley

Industry News

BioTek Instruments Cytation™ 3 Named Edison Awards Finalist

Biotek Instruments announced that their Cytation™ 3 Cell Imaging Multi-Mode Reader is a finalist in the 2014 Edison Awards® competition. The distinguished awards, inspired by Thomas Edison’s persistence and inventiveness, recognize innovation, creativity and ingenuity in the global economy. Award winners will be announced April 30, 2023 at the Edison Awards Annual Gala, held in the historic Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco, CA.

Read the press release.

News from UVM

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More on the Invention 2 Venture Conference

I2V is an interactive afternoon of spirited dialogue focused on inspiring entrepreneurship, job creation and economic growth in Vermont. It is hosted by UVM’s Office of Technology Commercialization, The Vermont Technology Council and The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies.

Thursday, April 2, 2014, 1–5 pm at the UVM Davis Center, Silver Maple Ballroom

See the agenda here.

Check the list of Roundtable topics and the Discussion Leaders here.

The conference is free of charge, but registration is required.

UVM Student Research Conference

Save the Date! Wednesday, April 16, 2023

Co-sponsored by the Graduate College, the Honors College, and the Office of the Vice President for Research, the 2014 Student Research Conference promotes scholarship, creative work & innovation.