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Two researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and two from the National Center for Toxicological Research were added Thursday to a growing list of scientists aligned with the Arkansas Research Alliance.

The selection of the four was announced at the state Capitol.

David Ussery, who works with analysis of bacterial genomes, and Hong-Yu Li, who is internationally recognized in cancer treatment, were named Arkansas Research Alliance Scholars on Thursday.

Weida Tong, director of the National Center for Toxicological Research's division of bioinformatics and biostatistics, and Paul Howard, a biomedical research scientist at the center, were named Arkansas Research Alliance Fellows. It was the first time the alliance has chosen fellows from the National Center for Toxicological Research, a federal research center in Jefferson, Ark.

A research scholar is recruited to Arkansas from out of state. A research fellow is one who already is on staff at the National Center for Toxicological Research or one of five research universities in Arkansas -- the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, UAMS and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The selections were announced a week after the state and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration signed a memorandum of understanding to continue for five years a collaboration among the National Center for Toxicological Research, five state universities and the Arkansas Department of Health.

Ussery, from Springdale, is focusing his study on the efficacy of vaccines on immune systems in people from different continents. He has been an applicant on grants of more than $30 million since 2010.

Li was recruited from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson and began working as a UAMS professor in April. Li said he is already creating jobs through his research.

Two startup companies in Tucson that Li has worked with will move to Little Rock early next year, Li said. Those two companies have seven employees. About a dozen employees work with Li in his UAMS lab, he said.

Li was recently named to the Helen Adams and Arkansas Research Alliance Endowed Chair. UAMS provided $500,000 from a bequest from Helen Adams to fund the chair and the alliance also gave $500,000.

Tong and Howard were in Washington, D.C., on Thursday and unable to attend the ceremony.

Tong's work at the National Center for Toxicological Research focuses on developing methods to support FDA research and regulations. Howard's work is concentrated on food contaminants, cosmetic ingredients, tattoo ink and nanotechnology-based materials.

Since the alliance was founded in 2008, nine scholars and 10 fellows have been chosen.

"The type of scientific study taking place in our state is just incredible," said Jerry Adams, president of the Arkansas Research Alliance.

Current research includes the development of liquid biopsies to help diagnose and treat cancer patients, Adams said. Study also is being conducted on the safety and toxicity of graphene, a material used in electronics and renewable energy devices, Adams said.

The Arkansas alliance was patterned after the Georgia Research Alliance, which has recruited more than 60 scholars and generated about $2.6 billion since it was founded more than 25 years ago. The Georgia group has helped create more than 150 companies that support more than 5,500 jobs.

Business on 09/09/2016

Print Headline: Research alliance adds 4 scientists in state to roster

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