Catalyst Science Fund
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.
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.
Catalyst Fund Program Manager
Bridget Baumgartner is joining Revive & Restore as the Program Manager of the Catalyst Science Fund beginning in January 2018. 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.