July 29, 2010

Gillibrand Announces Key Senate Panel Approves $200,000 For University At Albany’s DNA/RNA Initiative Against Orphan Diseases

Federal Funds Would Help Advance Research And Development of Cures for Rare Diseases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has approved $200,000 for the University at Albany’s DNA/RNA Initiative Against Orphan Diseases in the FY11 Appropriations Bill. Senator Gillibrand aggressively lobbied members of the Appropriations Committee to include funding for the project in this year’s spending bill.

“It is critical that we invest in the life-saving research and technologies at our education institutions across New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These federal dollars will help deliver cutting-edge medical research that could be critical to diagnosis and treatment. I will continue to fight for investments such as this one, which will help us achieve our state’s full economic potential, by fostering opportunity and innovation at our colleges and universities.”

There are more than 1,200 different, rare diseases referred to as orphan diseases. Each individual orphan disease, which is often genetic, affects less than 200,000 people. In total, orphan diseases afflict nearly 30 million Americans.

The traditional process for finding cures for diseases involves a long, expensive process, where researchers identify and target a specific protein involved in the causation of a specific disease. Making full use of its state-of-the-art life sciences and biotechnology facilities, the University at Albany has identified a new, more cost efficient approach for finding cures to less-common diseases through Ribonucleic acid (RNA) research. RNA is a common thread to all human cells as a middle manager in control of the expression of proteins, normal and abnormal. Recent RNA research has unlocked its potential to make a lasting impact on human health.

This targeted federal funding for the University at Albany would provide $200,000 in funding for the acquisition of technology and research capacity to expand the University’s ability to accelerate the translation of innovations of medical science into public practice for improving the diagnosis and potential treatment of orphan diseases, creating an estimated 100 jobs.

UAlbany Institute for RNA Science & Technology (IRNAST) – the world’s only comprehensive university research resource dedicated to applying the fundamental biology of RNA to therapeutic control of specific human diseases – promises to revolutionize health care through a new paradigm in innovative drug discovery and development. By hosting statewide and national partnerships with New York State institutions and companies, IRNAST will help to spur economic growth in the Capital Region and across the state.

The legislation will head to full committee, and then to the floor for a full vote before the Senate. The bill will then proceed to the House-Senate Conference Committee, before final passage in both chambers and then to the President to become law.