Catalyst Science Fund

ABOUT

Revive & Restore’s Catalyst Science Fund launched this summer with a pledge of $1 million per year for the next three years from biotech company Promega. The Fund is designed to catalyze the creation of impactful innovations in conservation. Rapid advances in biotechnology have the potential to benefit conservation practice, yet the conservation community has been slow to adopt these new tools. Since our founding in 2012, we have come to an important realization that a key barrier to the adoption of genomic solutions by the conservation community is the lack of success stories. Given that successful  projects require advancing the science and that the barrier to scientific advancement is often funding, Revive & Restore’s new fund will support early-stage research in transformative bio-science and proof-of-concept projects that can be applied towards high-value, high-impact conservation challenges. 

News

Please Note

  • We are not accepting unsolicited proposals at this time.
  • Indirect costs for grant agreements or sponsored research agreements may not exceed 10 percent of the total grant awarded.

First Catalyst Fund Grant Awarded

This research grant has been made possible through the support of two key Revive & Restore donors: Chris Cox and Visra Vichit-Vadakan.

Coral Resilience Research

Revive & Restore is pleased to announce that the first grant from our recently launched Catalyst Science Fund has been awarded to marine biologist Steve Palumbi’s laboratory at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station.  The $100,000 research grant will enable the Palumbi team to investigate the genomic “stress trigger” that may cause corals to bleach as a result of warming ocean conditions. This catalytic science could be an essential step forward in understanding the large-scale bleaching of coral reefs and the potential to engineer genomic resilience to climate change. Read More

When ocean water becomes too warm, the photosynthetic symbionts that provide the coral host with nutrients are expelled leading to high coral death rates.

As average sea surface temperatures around the world continue to increase, so too does the severity and extent of global bleaching events. More than two-thirds of the corals on the world’s largest reef, the 2000-mile Great Barrier Reef have already bleached. Bleaching events are expected to become more common as the ocean continues to warm. This impending crisis means that useful interventions are crucially needed.

The physiological consequences of coral bleaching are well studied, but scientists still do not understand the cellular response that produces bleaching – the bleaching trigger. Even though these mechanisms are poorly understood, perhaps one of the best tools for enhancing coral resilience to the effects of climate change will be manipulating the bleaching trigger itself. Recent studies correlating bleaching with gene expression show that a good candidate for the stress trigger may be a cellular reaction known as the unfolded protein response, in which cellular stress prompts either the repair of cell damage or a cascade of reactions that ultimately lead to cell death.

As the next step, experimental approaches that test these ideas are critical. Using pharmaceutical agents that block the unfolded protein response, Palumbi and his team will adapt novel techniques from cancer research to change specific parts of the unfolded protein response and determine whether these parts prevent or cause bleaching. If blocking the unfolded protein response also delays or halts bleaching, this research may focus the search for a genetic basis for coral resistance to climate change. If the unfolded protein response is found not to be the cause of coral bleaching, scientists can then examine other promising pathways.

Stanford University Marine Biologist Steve Palumbi is investigating the cause of coral bleaching.

Full Proposal Here

Catalyst Fund Program Manager

Bridget Baumgartner

Bridget Baumgartner joined Revive & Restore as the Program Manager of the Catalyst Science Fund in January 2019. With a background in molecular biology and genetics, Bridget brings five years of experience in program creation, development, and management as a contractor to the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While at DARPA, Bridget was responsible for driving high-risk, high-reward research and development initiatives in synthetic biology, aimed at promoting the use of green technologies to solve big problems. Certain projects in her portfolio also involved counteracting the impacts of climate change and reduced species diversity. Bridget has a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX and a B.S. in Biochemistry from Stony Brook University of New York.

Bridget will work closely with Revive & Restore leadership and the Catalyst Fund Advisory Council to develop an overarching investment and grant strategy designed to accelerate the creation of impactful innovations in conservation. She will work directly with the various research teams as they submit proposals, refine their scope of work, establish milestones, and oversee progress and deliverables. Establishing and growing this Catalyst Fund is a major focus for Revive & Restore this coming year.

Advisory Council

George Amato
American Museum of Natural History

George Church
Harvard Medical School

Owain Edwards
CSIRO (Australia)

Anne Readel
Promega

Renee Wegrzyn
Science Advisor

Dr. George Amato is the Director of Conservation Genomics at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History.  Dr. Amato led the organization of the Institute and was its first Director for twelve years.  In addition to administering this interdepartmental scientific program of more than 80 scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, Dr. Amato continues to conduct research in conservation genetics of endangered species.  He also serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia and Fordham Universities.
Read More

Previous to joining the Museum, Dr. Amato spent seventeen years conducting conservation research and programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he was the Director of Conservation and Science until 2005. Dr. Amato has lectured and published extensively on conservation strategies for endangered species, concentrating much of his work on the use of molecular analysis to determine conservation priorities and in developing forensic tools for monitoring the illegal trade in wildlife. Dr. Amato is involved in conservation issues on a global scale working on projects in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean.  He received his B.S. from the University of Connecticut and M.S., M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Yale University.

Dr. George Church is the founding core faculty member and platform lead for synthetic biology at the Wyss Institute; professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School; and professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and MIT. As the lead scientist of the Wyss Institute’s synthetic biology platform, George oversees the directed evolution of molecules, polymers, and whole genomes to create new tools with applications in regenerative medicine and bioenergy. Among his recent work at the Wyss Institute is the development of a technology for synthesizing whole genes, and potentially whole gene circuits, that is faster, more accurate, and significantly less expensive than current methods.
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Dr. Church is widely recognized for his innovative contributions to genomic science and his many pioneering contributions to chemistry and biomedicine. In 1984, he developed the first direct genomic sequencing method, which resulted in the first commercial genome sequence (the human pathogen, H. pylori). He helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984 and the Personal Genome Project in 2005. Dr. Church invented the broadly applied concepts of molecular multiplexing and tags, homologous recombination methods, and array DNA synthesizers. His many innovations have been the basis for a number of companies including Joule Unlimited, Inc. (solar fuels); LS9, Inc. (bio-petroleum); and Knome (full human genome sequencing).

Dr. Owain Edwards is the group leader for Environmental and Synthetic Genomics and the Synthetic Biology Future Platform’s domain leader in environment and biocontrol at CSIRO’s Centre for Environment and Life Sciences. Dr. Edwards obtained a BSc in Zoology from the University of Guelph in 1986. He was awarded his MSc in Entomology from the University of Missouri‐Columbia, USA, in 1989 and his PhD in Entomology from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, in 1994. Prior to joining CSIRO in 1998, Dr Edwards undertook postdoctoral studies at the University of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study ecological and genetic factors controlling the establishment of natural enemies in classical biological control programs.Read More

Dr. Edwards’ research at CSIRO focused initially on the molecular basis of aphid-host plant interactions, then expanded to investigate molecular interactions of aphids with their environment more broadly – including epigenetic regulation of aphid polyphenism. Dr. Edwards continues to serve on the board of the International Aphid Genomics Consortium, and on advisory committees to many other invertebrate genomics consortia.  Building on his expertise in invertebrate genomics he leads a CSIRO research group in Environmental Genomics, which includes a research team focused on genetic pest control technologies. Most recently, Dr Edwards was given a leadership role in the development of CSIRO’s new Future Science Platform in Synthetic Biology. Within this platform, Dr Edwards oversees projects delivering environmental outcomes including gene drives for biological control, and engineering resistance/resilience into threatened ecosystems.

Dr. Anne Readel is the Senior Associate General Counsel for Promega Corporation, a global biotechnology company. Prior to joining Promega, Dr. Readel was a patent litigator at Perkins Coie, where she represented companies in high-stakes litigation in the life sciences and biotechnology fields.  She has also held several positions with federal government agencies. As a law clerk at the U.S. Forest Service, she advised federal scientists on the commercialization of novel technologies related to forest products.  As a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, she helped develop policies related to oceans, the Great Lakes, and offshore energy.
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Dr. Readel received a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin. She received a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology and a B.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois. Her doctoral research focused on habitat variation and the health and conservation of reptiles and amphibians.

Dr. Renee Wegrzyn has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Bioengineering and a B.S. in Biology from Georgia Institute of Technology. Her full C.V. is available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the goal of the Catalyst Fund?

The Catalyst Science Fund will fund proof-of-concept science to advance the development of new biotechnology tools for conservation.

2. Why is such a fund needed?

Conservation applications of biotechnology have lagged, despite their potential to be transformative. As with any developing field, the thoughtful infusion of funding can accelerate an otherwise plodding or spotty advance. What is needed today is targeted funding for innovative science that yields effective new biotech tools for conservation. To that end, Revive & Restore has established a Catalyst Science Fund that will support research aimed at identifying and developing advanced techniques of genetic rescue.

3. What are the fund's focus areas?

Funds will be allocated to drive progress across high value applications identified and vetted as ripe for achieving conservation benefits by refining and targeting emerging biotechnologies. Projects and technologies that cut-across and can impact multiple conservation challenges will be prioritized. The goal within each focus area is to progress and test technologies and solution viability, to understand and map out what additional work and progress needs to be pursued, and to understand what approaches and areas are worth “doubling down” on to drive progress and achieve demonstrable impact.

The following are potential focus areas (and examples) under consideration but The Fund will not be limited to these areas if other innovative and impactful projects are proposed:

Wildlife endangerment, novel disease, limited population size and inbreeding depression and the effects of climate change are persistent global threats to wildlife.

  • Developing genetic resistance to disease in black-footed ferret
  • Optimizing advanced reproductive technologies to increase genetic diversity.

Ocean Health, including: overfishing, pollution, invasive species, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, ocean dead zones and climate change (coral bleaching, ocean acidification).

  • Identifying the metabolic pathway that triggers coral bleaching
  • Developing reliable techniques for induced spawning in reef building corals.

Forest Health, global trade and climate change are exacerbating the threats of pests and pathogens that threaten forest systems globally.

  • Eliminating or controlling invasive fungal pathogens for which conservation managers have no viable solutions.
  • Engineering genetic interventions for the control of non-native invasive insect pests.

Wildlife Products: Displace the use of wildlife products (that threaten species) through synthetic biology, cell culture, and bio-engineering techniques

  • Bio-engineer a replacement to the widespread harvest of forage fish in the production of oils rich in essential fatty acids.
  • The creation of synthetic baits to relieve the demand on bait fisheries.

Invasive Species – the control and eradication of non-native invasive species is a difficult and costly problem in need of innovation.

  • Precision breeding to create “dial-down” effects on problem invasives.
  • Genome editing to limit or eradicate invasive mosquitos, fish or rodents without the use of biocides.

De-extinction – modern biotechnology provides the potential to create near exact proxies of species and the development of these tools will likely create other transformative technology.

4. How do I submit my proposal?

  1. Please review the topics of interest, funding criteria, and preferences explained on this website.
  2. If you have an idea for a project that you think is a good fit for the Catalyst Science Fund, send a short email describing the main goal and potential impact of the project to the Program Manager, bridget(at)reviverestore.org.
  3. If we have interest in receiving a full proposal on your project, we will send you an application template to help you develop your proposal for review.
  4. All proposal undergo review by our Science Advisory.
  5. It is our goal to complete the review process and inform proposers of a funding decision within 30 days of proposal submission.

5. What are the selection criteria for proposals?

All proposals are evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Technical Merit
–  How likely is it that the proposed approach will be successful?
–  What are the greatest technical risks? Can they be mitigated?

2. Potential for Impact
–  If the project is completely successful, how much will it impact conservation efforts?

3. Budget and Schedule Realism
–  Are the proposed budget and timeline realistic for meeting the goals of the project?

Preference will be given to proposals that meet the following characteristics:

1. Project addresses a species with a clear conservation need or can be generalized to serve many conservation needs.
2. Proposers have considered and planned for potential non-technical challenges of fielding the resulting technology, such as community acceptance and regulatory requirements.
3. Matching funds are available from government or other private sources.