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UB launches "bio bank" in downtown research center

Courtesy University at Buffalo, Douglas Levere

The University at Buffalo is officially opening a new facility within its downtown Clinical and Translational Research Center, one where biological samples will be collected, processed, stored and utilized for an array of research projects by UB and its partners.

A formal launch event for the university's new biorepository was held Friday morning inside the Ellicott Street center, located within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It's hailed as a critical component of the Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics.

The specimens to be gathered and kept will provide a wealth of information that will be useful for numerous studies, said Norma Nowak, executive director of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

"Biorepositories are places where you can store patient samples and really serve as a hub of collaboration between scientists for doing either population health studies, or literally looking at cohorts of patients who have specific diseases, and trying to find better therapeutics and diagnostics to treat those patients," Nowak said.

During opening remarks at Friday morning's event, UB vice president Venu Govindaraju suggested the biorepository may help make the university more competitive when seeking public, corporate or philanthropic funds. Nowak suggests one of the advantages the UB Biorepository will have is, given Buffalo's more diverse population compared to other places where biorepositories are located, its library of specimens will also have more diversity.

"What we're hoping to do, looking forward, is to be able to do some of those prospective collections," Nowak said. "But we are also going to have individuals who come in, study certain diseases, and want to place their samples with us, to drive collaboration not only for themselves but to share those samples with other researchers, not just here but outside of Buffalo."

Among the projects already looking to utilize the facility are the Environmental Health Study for Western New York, formed to study local populations who may have been affected by the discharges of the former Tonawanda Coke plant, and research into Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that, Nowak stated, has an increasingly higher rate in Buffalo compared to other parts of the nation.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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