Educating Johannesburg on the Benefits of Core Facilities in Research.

 

This post was adapted from a Florida State University Press Release.

Dr. Claudius Mundoma, from Florida State University, Institute of Molecular Biophysics, and an ABRF Member, was awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to travel to South Africa to work with University of Johannesburg and Profs. Charles Mbohwa and Willie Oldewage on “Sharing Research Equipment – Towards a Sustainable Model of Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research”.  This fellowship allows for Mundoma to work with researchers in Africa and educate them with his intimate knowledge on how core facilities in particular can benefit interdisciplinary research and collaboration.  Especially with limited resources and funding for research available.

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Dr. Mundoma teaching to students in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Our recognition that scientific research resources are not only the heart of discovery and productivity but also the catalyst to innovation underpins this effort. Equipment sharing is a common practice but there is need for an understanding of the benefits and barriers to greater equipment sharing as a response to reduced capital funding. To maintain economic competitiveness, it is critical to sustain gains in scientific investments made over the past decade through efficient use of available resources.  It is with this focus that Dr. Claudius Mundoma is collaborating with the University of Johannesburg to come up with a comprehensive strategy to managing the research assets at University of Johannesburg that will focus on efficiency as a very first step towards innovation.

The need is addressed in three ways:

(1) By equipment-sharing and better scientific resource management principles we strengthen Africa’s collaboration networks. By creating a searchable equipment portal and a sharing management system, the university can be able to stretch scarce research funds to serve a wider research community. The sharing portal brings visibility to research capabilities across the university and enhances efficiency by optimizing redundancies and increasing equipment access. It is also important to note that not all equipment is shareable.

P1010735(1) 2) Centralization has advantages of economies of scale, which allows the university to better manage the full life cycle cost of its equipment, i.e., from acquisition to retirement or re-purposing.

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Learning the ‘ropes’ on equipment.

(3) Providing management training options for the equipment managers through adoption of best practices and joining professional organizations. Equipment managers should be able to cross-train on various instruments and increase their value to the university community thus extending training to graduate students and faculty in their departments.

The University of Johannesburg project is one of 57 projects that will pair African Diaspora scholars with higher education institutions in Africa to collaborate on curriculum co-development, research, graduate teaching, training and mentoring activities.  Dr. Claudius Mundoma is one of 59 African Diaspora scholars who have been awarded fellowships to travel to Africa beginning in May 2016 to conduct a wide range of projects across disciplines, from agroforestry to e-learning modules for nursing, and from ethnomusicology to military mental health. The program has now selected and approved a total of 169 Fellows since its inception in 2013.

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Enjoying an afternoon high tea in the break room.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship program facilitates engagement between scholars born in Africa who are now based in the United States or Canada and scholars in Africa on mutually beneficial academic activities.  The Advisory Council selected forty-one African universities to host the Fellows, based on collaborative project proposals submitted by faculty members and administrators at the African universities, to meet specific needs at their universities. This innovative program is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with United State International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi, through Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, who chairs the Advisory Council, and is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

 

MAD SSCi 2016: The Corpse in the Conservatory

-Written by Roxann Ashworth, MAD SSCi Secretary, JHU

The fourth annual MAD SSCi conference was held at the beautiful William Pitt Union on the urban campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh welcomed 95 delegates, representing BioNano, Biorepository, Flow Cytometry, Imaging and Molecular Technology facilities.  Core directors, administrators, managers and staff were able to interact and form or renew fruitful relationships that will lead to future collaboration.  We were very happy to be joined by the ABRF Executive Director Susan DeCourcey.

“Wonderful opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues working in Core Facilities.  I enjoyed the Quality Assurance Workshop which generated good discussions.  The presentations on Biorepositories were informative and created topics for us to discuss in our Core.”  –Lori Kelly, U. Pitt, New Core Director, First Time Attendee

Accreditation: CMU Field Robotics Center

Accreditation: CMU Field Robotics Center

Attendees from universities and institutions around the Mid-Atlantic, and as far away as Texas and Tennessee, kicked off the conference with a reception at the Phipps Conservatory and a talk from Dr. Alan Waggoner of Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Waggoner described the development of a roving biosensor and fluorescent dyes that may one day be deployed to look for life on Mars.  Earthbound testing took place in the hostile, but striking Atacama Desert, Chile.

Romero – thankfully not a scratch and sniff picture!

Romero – thankfully not a scratch and sniff picture!

 

The highlight of the evening was the once in a lifetime opportunity to see (and smell) the blossoming of the Corpse Flower known as “Romero.”  When we walked in that evening, we all thought it was pretty cool, and maybe noticed a slight aroma.  When we walked out at the end of the evening past the now fully open flower, we all understood how the plant got its name!

Thursday and Friday brought presentations on topics ranging from A(dministration) to Z(ika).

A Dynamic David Dilts Acceditation: Kunjie Hua, UNC

A Dynamic David Dilts Acceditation: Kunjie Hua, UNC

 

 

 

David Dilts of OHSU provided an entertaining and thought provoking talk on how to define the value that our core facilities provide to our investigators and the universities we serve.  Our closing talk was a fascinating look at the possible mechanisms and explanations for why the Zika virus, which has been around since 1947, has suddenly become a devastating disease now that it has reached South America.  Between these keynotes, delegates had the opportunity to attend vendor workshops on a variety of topics, go to concurrent sessions on topics as diverse as Biorepositories, Genome Editing, Light Sheet Microscopy and Project management, and to pick each other’s brains for solutions to common problems in the “What’s your Core?” round table discussion.

 

Gene Editing Session Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Gene Editing Session
Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Lans Taylor gave an interesting overview of how the University of Pittsburgh is integrating systems biology and 3D cultured organs on a chip to develop methods for cheaper and more efficient drug discovery. Rebecca Davies placed the provision of QA training and infrastructure at the center of assuring accurate and repeatable data.  She argued for the development of best practices within the research community.  Describing the collaborative, centralized approach she has championed at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Davies gave our attendees much to discuss regarding the role of core facilities in assuring reproducibility.

“The conference felt personal due to the size and background and those that attended…[The] other managers…were insightful with how to handle instrument usage, advertisements, etc. Overall a good conference to attend, especially being new to managing a facility.”  — Greg Donohoe, Ph.D., BioNano Research Facilities Manager, Shared Research Facilities, West Virginia University

Corey Lipchick Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Corey Lipchick
Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Corey Lipchik from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, Allegheny Health Network won the poster travel award for: FFPE Tissue and the HTG Oncology Biomarker Panel: a Low-Input, Extraction-Free Gene Expression Pilot Study.  He will receive $500 to attend either the national meeting or next year’s MAD SSCi meeting.  Michael Chua of the UNC Michael Hooker Microscopy Core Facility won a free ABRF membership kindly donated by ABRF Ambassadors.

“[The MAD SSCi conference is] small enough and regional to make the networking particularly fruitful.”— Paul Wood, University of Pittsburgh

Next year MAD SSCi 2017 will be held in Morgantown, WV hosted by West Virginia University.  We have many ideas for content, and plan to develop more staff focused technical and networking sessions that will compliment the excellent administrative and management focus of recent years.  Watch our website to see what we are up to!  Our new President, Trina Wafle, has some exciting new ideas and will continue our tradition of wonderful entertainment and fabulous science!

JBT Publishes a Special Issue on Core Management

JBT

This issue of the Journal of Biomolecular Techniques is devoted to the business of cores, from developing performance standards and metrics for evaluating core performance to implementing product lifecycle management for core operation improvement, all while creating disaster response and business continuity plans. We thank Ron Orlando, JBT Editor-in-Chief, and the ABRF Executive Board for supporting this special issue of JBT. It is our hope that readers will find these articles useful for developing approaches that will benefit their cores and institutions.

Spreading the Word

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Together the Association for Biomolecular Facilities (ABRF) Executive Board (EB), Membership Committee (MemComm), and Communications Committee (CommComm) formalize the ABRF “Ambassador Program.” Committee and individual members of the ABRF will officially serve a key role in advocating and sharing information about the association with various regional, international, and other cross-disciplinary groups to attract potential ABRF members. Formalizing the Ambassador Program not only provides our representatives resources helping them share a unified message with potential members with fresh marketing tools, but also provides MemComm data with which to retool strategies to build and engage the membership.

“In the past ABRF has tried to promote the Ambassador program by simply identifying ABRF members that attend the regional/chapter/local/technology focused meetings to spread the word about ABRF at those meetings. This was an informal process and the results were mixed.  We did not have mechanisms to follow up and there was no support infrastructure for the ABRF ambassadors.” said MemComm co-chair, Claudius Mundoma.

The idea to formalize the Ambassador Program and provide a coordinated communication package for Ambassadors. In the past MemComm spearheaded the “Member Get A Member“ campaign, which attracted 50+ new members to the ABRF. The EB and CommComm have agreed to further develop these efforts and create a harmonized message for the Ambassadors to share. Ambassadors will now have access to tools and resources and be empowered to identify what the larger community of core and technology focused people need. This includes a new ABRF pull out banner, brochures, rack cards, a slide deck, a poster, and a free, one-year ABRF membership to raffle off to non-members at each meeting.

The overarching goal of the Ambassador Program is to effectively, and in a fiscally responsible manner, broaden awareness of ABRF’s reach at a very nominal cost. The best way to build any network is through word of mouth, through current ABRF members sharing how they have benefited from being part of the association and inviting others to join. “We simply want to make sure that the Ambassador has enough support to effectively communicate the mission and benefits of joining the ABRF.  We expect the Ambassadors to give us feedback on their engagement and we can get actionable insights from these reports.” Mundoma continued.

Several meetings are already booked in the hopes of opening doors for ABRF and building existing relationships:

  • Susan DeCourcey (Executive Director) – MADSSCi – June 8 – 10 in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Scott Tighe (Chairperson, Metagenomics Research Group) is an invited speaker at the The 18th Genomic Standards Consortium Meeting being held in Greece in mid June
  • Bill Hendrickson (President) will give one of the keynote lectures at CTLS 2016 – Core Technologies for Life Science in mid June at EMBL
  • Susan DeCourcey (Executive Director) – SEASR – late June in Atlanta, GA
  • Frances Weis-Garcia (President-elect) is speaking at the NIH, NIGMS 6th Biennial National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) in DC in late June
  • Claudius Mundoma (Co-chairperson, MemComm) is
    • Heading to South Africa this summer, where among other things he and will share how networking with ABRF members around the world can strengthen core facilities and science in South Africa
    • Attending a Florida-wide core facility directors meeting in mid-August
  • Andy Chitty and Julie Auger (EB Members) – WACD – late September in Torrey Pines, CA
  • Paula Turpen (EB Member) – MWACD – early October in Cincinnati, OH
  • Claire Reardon (Co-chair, MemComm) and other ABRF members – NERLSCD – mid October in Boston, MA

Members are encouraged to propose other events to MemComm at which ABRF members can represent the association and encourage people to join.

 

Lopez Participates in Unique Collaboration with Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Pictured is the MBARI Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LRAUV) with a group of collaborators working to vet underwater flow cytometric and microscopic approaches for monitoring ocean plankton

Participants in the June 1-2 workshop hosted by The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) which focused on vetting underwater flow cytometric and microscopic approaches for monitoring ocean plankton. This is critical for prediction of toxic algal blooms harmful to humans, monitoring the ocean carbon cycle, and general planetary health. Peter Lopez, back row, 5th in from the right, along with Chris Scholin ,9th from the right, MBARI Director, Heidi Sosik–Woods Hole Oceanographic Instititute, inventor of the Imaging Flow CytoBot (kneeling, 2nd from right ), and Jarred  Swalwell, 8th from the right , back row, University of Washington, inventor of the “SeaFlow” and “PipeCyte” sheath less underwater flow cytometers . In front is the MBARI Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LRAUV).
Peter was invited to participate in this workshop for his flow cytometric and methods integration expertise.

ABRF responds to NIGMS Request for Information Notice Number: NOT-GM-16-103

On April 4, 2016 the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) issued a request for information (RFI) on the “Need for and Support of Research Resources for the Biomedical Research Community.” Resources are defined broadly, including reagents, instrumentation, software, and even the manipulation of biological systems to produce tools. Respondents are asked to describe needs and opportunities at the investigator, institutional, regional and/or national level. Feedback will be used to inform NIGMS’s investment in resources and may lead to new programs or activities. Comments are due by June 3, 2016 and should be submitted to nigmsresource@mail.nih.gov. Additional information can be found in the RFI notice (NOT-GM-16-103).

At the request of the Executive Board, and on behalf of ABRF, the Core Administrators Network – Coördinating Committee (CAN-CC) provided the following response:

June 3, 2016

Douglas M. Sheeley, Sc.D.
Program Director (Employee)
Biomedical Technology Branch National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
2AN12E
45 Center Drive MSC 620
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200

ABRF response to NIGMS Request for Information Notice Number: NOT-GM-16-103

Dear Dr. Sheeley:

The Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) thanks the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for the opportunity to provide information and suggestions about research resource needs of biological and biomedical researchers and strategies for supporting such resources in response to the Request for Information (NOT-GM-16-103).

ABRF is a unique association comprising over 750 members from around the world working within or in the support of resource and research biotechnology laboratories. Our members represent over 340 core facilities, laboratories and administrative offices in government, academia, research, industry and commercial settings, and are involved in a broad spectrum of biomolecular technologies. ABRF, as a 27-year old organization and a member of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), is exceedingly well positioned to provide suggestions related to shared research resources for biomedical researchers.

From the perspective of the ABRF membership, which includes core facility staff, directors and administrators, core facilities are the cornerstone of advanced academic research communities. As such sustaining them is critical. While there is increasing awareness of the scientific contributions that core facilities make to and make possible for their institutions, financial sustainability remains an ongoing challenge. Recognizing the role of, increasing awareness of, and funding core facility operations would be an effective way for the NIGMS to expand and support collaborative science.

Recognition
Researchers engaged in team science and the management of core facilities should be recognized for their important and unique contributions to research. Unfortunately, these same activities often place faculty at a disadvantage in the tenure review process. Additionally, too many scientists take the stance that, because fees are charged for services provided by the core facilities, contributions by core facility directors and staff do not warrant acknowledgement in publications. ABRF recommends that NIGMS explore grant structures that offer researchers who run and work in core facilities comparable indicators of productivity and research impact. For instance, NIGMS could convene stakeholders to develop a set of metrics for evaluating researchers involved in creation and provision of shared resources. ABRF also recommends that NIGMS consider a requirement to acknowledge not only grant funded instrumentation but also the core facility staff experts in accordance with broadly recognized guidance on authorship.

Increasing awareness
ABRF recommends that NIGMS identify strategies to improve discoverability of available core facilities and support implementation or enhancement of these strategies. Examples of readily available and searchable information about core facilities at US institutions are the NCI on-line list of shared resources and the ABRF Core MarketPlace created by the Vermont Genetics Network .

ABRF further recommends that NIGMS specifically require grant applications to describe proposed use of core facilities or provide explanations of why available core facilities will not be used. We encourage NIGMS to include more specific review criteria for individual, multi-PI, center and collaborative grant opportunities that consider the impact of shared resources to enable success of the proposal. A P50 program project grant can play a substantial role in contributing to the development or expansion of a core by providing funds for large scale experiments performed in one or more shared resources. By increasing the user base for such cores, all users can enjoy decreased cost and increased accessibility. We recommend considering this as a prototype that could be expanded upon as a model for development of regional and national resources for focused research in program-specific disciplines.

Funding operations
While the NIH S10 mechanism for funding shared instruments is greatly needed and appreciated, additional resources must be identified by recipient institutions to commission and maintain instrumentation and even more money is required to develop new methods and services. While the NIH has implemented the R50 grant designed to support core personnel (and others), significant gaps remain. NIGMS (and other NIH institutes) should consider providing a pool of funds through the P20 and P30 mechanisms that is targeted for methods development. These funds could be competitively dispersed by the award grantee which would ensure that the methods were tailored to the needs of that particular institution’s research community. This model would work exceptionally well for the NIGMS IDeA programs and NCI Cancer Center Support Grants which already include support for shared resources. Allowable direct costs related to the method development would include personnel, supplies and instrument time.

For those core facilities fortunate enough to obtain NIGMS or other NIH funding, e.g., P30s, receiving timely and clear notice of awards would facilitate advance budget, service capacity and fee structure planning, placing the core facility in a stronger position to ensure support of their research community.

Additionally, we note the development of a program of support for the salaries of staff scientists in core facilities that is being piloted at the National Cancer Institute. Such independent support for a component of a staff scientist’s effort in a core not only provides an opportunity for novel methodology/technology development in cores but also provides enhanced stature for the role of staff scientists working in cores. These individuals contribute substantially to the intellectual and experimental life of research institutions and enhancing their status in the institutions can only upgrade the research enterprise.

The ABRF appreciates your consideration of our suggestions. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions at whend@uic.edu.

Sincerely,

William Hendrickson
President
ABRF

 

ABRF Launches Annual Biomolecular Research Laboratory Census

abrf_2016_surveySubmitted by:  Christopher Colangelo

From 1989 to 2000, ABRF conducted and published 12 surveys on job Compensation and Employment in the biotechnology core laboratory. These surveys had a major impact on helping scientists, administrators, and NIH to promote the growth of core laboratory worldwide. As a way to continue this rich tradition, the current ABRF Executive Board and I have developed and relaunched an industry-wide Annual Biomolecular Research Laboratory Census.

The goal of this census is to learn about salary and employment trends in the biomolecular research laboratory marketplace, both non- and for-profit. The confidential census data will provide respondents the ability to benchmark their biomolecular research laboratory against others, both now and in the future, as well as help ABRF strengthen professional opportunities and employment-related incentives for biotechnology resource facilities. Census results will be made available to the industry via a peer reviewed research article and on the ABRF website.

Participation in this census is voluntary and we anticipate the census will take only 5-7 minutes to complete. We aim to collect data from as many research labs as possible and 100% participation from our current ABRF membership. Respondent identities will remain strictly confidential and all information will be analyzed in aggregate.

To participate in the census, please click HERE. The initial deadline for completing the census is June 15.