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UPR Invests $26.3 Million In Three Biotechnology Centers

Research aimed to benefit Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry


March 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry can benefit from the development of the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) three biotechnology research centers, which recently received a five-year, $19.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant, along with an additional $6.5 million complementary funds from the UPR system, will be used to fund the centers, said UPR President Antonio Garcia Padilla.

The three centers had been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Since 1985, the UPR has doubled its initial $8 million research & development (R&D) federal funds, totaling $59.1 million in the past 10 years.

"Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry needs to transfer its manufacturing processes from methods using chemical synthesis to produce drugs to processes generated from medical biotechnological processes," said UPR Vice President for Research & Academic Affairs Dr. Manuel Gomez.

Several companies have expressed interest in participating in the centers’ experimental programs. Among these are GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"We identified a niche in the scientific academic R&D that could be used to produce technology transfer, generate new patents, and develop human resources for the growing biotechnology industry. As an innovative and entrepreneurial academic system, we developed strategies to retain funds from NIH for relevant investigations that would benefit the UPR and Puerto Rico," said Gomez.

Three proposals were submitted by the UPR to the NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (Cobre) program. The centers count on 21 professors from the UPR’s Rio Piedras, Medical Sciences, Mayaguez, and Humacao campus, in addition to the Ponce School of Medicine and University of Missouri.

The Neuroscience Center for the Molecular Study of Development and Behavior makes up Cobre I. The program was awarded $8.7 million and will study the molecular and protein basis of human development and behavior.

Cobre II is a Center for the Study of Proteins Structure, Performance, and Dynamics. It was awarded $9.1 million for the study of coded proteins by the human genome in order to understand its structure and functioning.

The third component is a Center for the Development of a Biomedical Research Information & Collaboration Network, part of the NIH’s Biomedical Research & Infrastructure Network (Brin). The Brin was awarded $8.5 million for the development of a biotechnology network.

Brin will use UPR’s Internet2 network, which can access the human genome’s mega data banks in addition to global research centers and laboratories. Biotechnology R&D projects will use the network to develop strong bioinformation systems that can be accessed worldwide.

Center Director Principal researchers
Cobre I

Neuroscience Center for the Molecular Study of Human Development & Behavior

Dr. Conchita Zuazaga,


Dr. Fernando Gonzalez, UPR/RP-Chemistry
Dra. Carmen Maldonado, UPR/RP-Biology
Dra. Sandra Peña, UPR/RP-Biology
Dr. Juan C. Jorge-UPR/MS-Anatomy
Dra. Nidza Lugo-UPR/MS-Institute of Neurobiology
Dr. Gregory Quirk-Ponce School of Medicine
Dr. Gary A. Weisman-Univ. of Missouri-Biochemistry
Cobre II

Center for the Study of Proteins’ Structure, Performance, and Dynamics

Dr. Juan Lopez-Garriga,


Dr. Carmen L. Cadilla, UPR-M, Biochemistry
Dr. Belinda Pastrana-Rios, UPR-M, Chemistry
Dr. Kai Griebenow, UPR-RP, Chemistry
Dr. Reinhard Schweitzer-Stenner, UPR-RP, Chemistry
Dra. Elsa M. Cora-UPR-MS, Biochemistry

Center for the Development of a Biomedical Research Information & Collaboration Network

Dr. Fernando Gonzalez,

UPR-RP, Chemistry

Dr. Guy Cornier, UPR, HPCf
Humberto Ortiz, UPR, HPCf
Dr. Guillermo Bernal, UPR-RP
Dr. Antonio Alegria, UPR-H, Chemistry
Dr. Conchita Zuazaga, UPR-MS, Physiology


This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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