Dataseam expands apprenticeship program for Kentucky students
By Haley Cawthon – Reporter, Louisville Business First, December 23, 2021
A Louisville-based tech company is expanding its efforts to grow and improve IT workforce through newly-awarded funds from the federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
Dataseam received $1.5 million to further expand its U.S. Department of Labor-approved Registered Apprenticeship in Information Technology program for high school students in the Eastern Kentucky region.
Implemented with guidance from the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and the Education and Workforce Cabinet, the two-year program includes paid IT jobs for students in participating school districts, hands-on coursework and on-the-job training and mentoring, according to a news release.
“We are excited to expand the IT Apprenticeship,” said Dataseam CEO Brian Gupton in the release. “Our project competed against 175 others from the 13 ARC states for total awards of $43.3 million. We are proud the Dataseam model for education and workforce development was assessed by subject matter experts at the federal level to be a good return on investment to fund these efforts.”
As many as 25 school districts in 20 Kentucky counties will have the opportunity to participate. The training will better prepare the students to further their education at the university level or seek out IT-based jobs in education, health care, local banking, and state and local government, the release continued. Approximately 45,000 students in the participating counties will have access to new technology as part of what the award will provide.
Dataseam’s award was one of six given in Kentucky totaling $5.5 million through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative (POWER). The POWER Initiative targets federal resources to help communities and regions affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production. Efforts include cultivating economic diversity, enhancing job training and re-employment opportunities, creating jobs in existing or new industries and attracting new sources of investment.
A goal of the apprenticeship program is to address Kentucky’s ongoing shortage of IT talent and the increased demands for such talent due to Covid-related remote work and instruction. Louisville Forward estimates that one-third of the workforce necessary to meet Louisville’s needs will come from Kentucky’s other 119 counties.
“These students will be the first of a pipeline created by Dataseam to meet not only the labor needs of Louisville but also the Commonwealth as a whole. Many of them could eventually be transplants to Louisville, coming here for college but staying for the opportunities our city provides,” said Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, in the release.
Since 2005, Dataseam has improved classroom instruction and digital literacy in Kentucky schools and allowed increased employment for participants by providing training and industry-standard certification to participating Kentucky schools.
Dataseam operates the only Apple Authorized Training Center (AATC) in Kentucky. More than 8,000 educators have received training and school technology professionals now comprise the largest cohort of Apple OS engineers in the United States.
“The DOL Apprenticeship is the next step in taking what we have learned as part of workforce development in the Dataseam ecosystem and provide those successes to our next generation. Engaging apprentice candidates in a skilled trade earlier in life provides the option to enter the IT workforce immediately upon graduation from high school or seek further instruction at the university level,” said Dataseam COO Gena McCubbins, in the release.
The University of Louisville and Morehead State University identify and recruit students from its 48 Kentucky Dataseam-participating districts. Both institutions have funded separately the Dataseam Scholars program, providing four-year scholarships to students wishing to go into the STEM disciplines, including Information Technology.
“We have had great success recruiting students from Dataseam schools from across the state to our campus,” said Jenny Sawyer, University of Louisville’s Executive Director of Admissions, in the release. “Students completing this apprenticeship should be better prepared for computer science, engineering and other related fields we offer as well as more competitive for scholarships and other opportunities.”
(Louisville, Ky) – Nearly ten years ago John Trent Ph.D. of the Molecular Modeling Facility at UofL used the combined power of thousands of computers in classrooms across the state of Kentucky to discover potential compounds that stop cancer from growing. The University recently announced that their research team is now at a point in the development process to secure a commercial partner to take the technology to the next step.
READ STORY FROM UofL BELOW
John Trent and this team executed several runs on the DataseamGrid in the spring of 2007. The Grid helped the
research team narrow their search of over 12 million potential compounds to about 100 of interest, which they took to the laboratory for further analysis and development. Additional validation was done on the Grid against larger database of compounds in late 2010. Like most drugs it would take another decade to narrow the candidates, modify compounds, test and retest before proving they had a potentially viable treatment.
STOPS GROWTH OF ONE-THIRD OF HUMAN TUMORS
At the time the DataseamGrid consisted of about 7,000 machines running in 39 school districts. There where still a number of the early “white” iMacs and even some of the egg-shaped eMacs doing their job both in the classroom and
powering research. With more computers and faster processors the current Grid produces ten times the processing speed and
allows researchers to search with greater accuracy and look at many more possibilities. The current library is 34 million.
This added power helps UofL cancer researchers not only continue to make groundbreaking discoveries, but also makes it possible for them to attract millions of dollars in federal research grants, talented faculty and researchers, and potential business to the Commonwealth.
(Published July 22, 2020 from University of Louisville)
UOFL TECHNOLOGY THAT MAY INHIBIT PATHWAY FOR CANCER GETS COMMERCIAL PARTNER
By Betty Coffman
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A University of Louisville-born invention that may help treat cancer now has a commercial partner.
Qualigen Therapeutics Inc., a California biotechnology company focused on developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, has signed a license agreement for the technology and plans to fund continued development with UofL to ready it for market.
The technology works by targeting the RAS protein, which sends signals that regulate when and where the body produces and grows new cells. When mutated, the protein turns into a “stuck accelerator pedal,” according to UofL researcher Geoffrey Clark, Ph.D., who co-invented the technology with colleagues John Trent, Ph.D., and Joe Burlison, Ph.D.
“Normally, it gets pressed when you need to grow and then the foot comes off and the cell slows down,” said Clark, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at UofL. “When it becomes mutated, the accelerator’s jammed on, with cells continuing to grow and ultimately becoming a cancerous tumor.”
The drug targets only the active RAS protein and, so far, has little toxic effect on healthy cells. Many current non-targeted treatments, such as chemotherapy, can hurt both healthy and cancerous cells, leading to painful side effects. By some estimates, targeting this mutation could stop the growth of at least a third of human tumors.
“The patient impact could be extremely broad because RAS is involved in a lot of different cancers,” Trent said. “It’s one of the holy grails that there has been limited success in targeting.”
Trent leads the Molecular Modeling Facility (MMF) at UofL Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the UofL partnership with Dataseam, a non-profit with a network of school computers across the state. When the computers aren’t being used by students, they’re connected to act as a distributed supercomputer, allowing researchers to process and analyze huge amounts of data.
Trent used that capability to run through millions of cancer-fighting drug possibilities in a matter of days. The result was a drug that could inhibit the deregulated RAS protein. Development of the technology was supported by the UofL NIH REACH ExCITE program.
Qualigen holds an exclusive license to the technology through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which works with startups and industry to commercialize university-owned technologies. This license agreement builds on a sponsored research agreement with Qualigen for the development of several small-molecule RAS Inhibitor drug candidates. Qualigen also has licensed and is developing other UofL technologies for fighting COVID-19 and cancer.
“Partnering on this new cancer-fighting technology is another example of the relationship we’ve developed with the University of Louisville,” said Michael Poirier, CEO of Qualigen. “We look forward to working with UofL and to advancing this important clinical program with the goal of developing an effective treatment for this unmet need.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The novel coronavirus may have K-12 students in Kentucky’s school districts learning at home, but researchers at the University of Louisville are using the computing power of thousands of computers in classrooms across the state to identify drugs to treat COVID-19. The desktop computers are part of the DataseamGrid, a network of computers housed in classrooms of 48 Kentucky school districts as part of a partnership designed to support research, education and workforce development.
John Trent, Ph.D., deputy director of basic and translational research at the UofL Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center, conducts virtual screening to discover new cancer drugs using the DataseamGrid for high-volume computations. Today, he has the computers at work 24/7 to identify the most promising drugs and compounds to fight SARS-CoV-2 and its disease, COVID-19.
“In these unprecedented times, we had a resource where we could potentially make an impact quickly and switch over from some of our cancer targets to SARS-CoV-2 targets,” Trent said. “We have been very successful in doing this in cancer for 15 years. We are using the same approach in targeting the coronavirus, just targeting a different protein.”
Established in 2003, Dataseam is funded by the Kentucky General Assembly to provide computing infrastructure, workforce development and educational opportunities for students and staff in Kentucky school districts. Available computing power in those units is put to work performing computer modeling calculations to screen anti-cancer drugs for Trent’s team and collaborators at UofL.
“Like a lot of industries, we have shifted our skills and infrastructure to address this issue,” said Brian Gupton, CEO of Dataseam. “We are always going to have cancer, but at least for the time being, we are glad the DataseamGrid is here for Dr. Trent to screen those drugs.”
In mid-March, Trent and his team entered new data onto the DataseamGrid, along with UofL’s dedicated research computers, in a two-pronged approach to match three-dimensional models of proteins in SARS-CoV-2 to drugs and compounds that could help in treating or preventing COVID-19. The DataseamGrid provides up to 80 percent of the computational power for these projects.
The first approach is to test about 2,000 drugs already on the market and another 9,000 investigational drugs and nutraceuticals that have been tested for toxicity to isolate those most likely to be effective against the virus.
“For the immediate approach, we are testing drugs that already are approved by the FDA or have been tested in humans. If we find activity with those drugs, we could get them into patient trials a lot quicker,” Trent said. “However, these drugs obviously were designed for something else and they may not have the same efficacy of a very selective drug.”
To find that selective drug, Trent’s second prong of research includes computational models to screen 37 million small molecules and compounds against the target proteins in SARS-CoV-2. These molecules could be used to develop a new drug specifically to treat the virus. That process would take more time, however, to obtain FDA approval.
“That initial discovery of a new, more-selective agent is more long term. You are looking at 12 to 18 months before you would even think about testing those in a patient,” Trent said. “But time is of essence at the moment, so we are doing both things at the same time.”
Using the DataseamGrid and UofL research computers, Trent and his team are screening the drugs and small molecules against 3-D structures of four proteins in the virus to see which compounds might bind with the proteins. A drug that interferes with the activity of any of these proteins would reduce the virus’s ability to spread.
Trent began the research with the first two proteins described for SARS-CoV-2: the main protease, an essential enzyme used by the virus to break down viral proteins and make new virus particles, and spike proteins, the triangular “knobs” the virus uses to attach itself to host cells. These spikes are the knobs commonly seen in graphic images on the surface of the virus. Trent now also is testing drugs against two additional target proteins that were described very recently.
So far, the process has identified about 30 drugs as potentially effective against SARS-CoV-2. Trent recommended these for biological testing by other UofL researchers in the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM). Directed by Kenneth Palmer, Ph.D., the CPM is one of only a few labs in the United States capable of testing the drugs against the virus. That testing is expected to begin in mid-April.
If the CPM researchers find the drugs to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 in the lab, they could be moved to the next phase of testing in animal models, testing that also may be conducted at CPM.
“This computer modeling is an excellent way to identify the best potential candidates for laboratory testing rapidly, and this strategy could lead to relief sooner rather than later for patients suffering from COVID-19,” Palmer said.
Gupton says it is good to know the DataseamGrid continues to support urgent medical research even though students are working from home.
“Ironically, we hope to return to cancer research as soon as possible,” Gupton said. “Even though the students are not in classrooms, Kentucky school districts are providing them with instruction, technology, internet access and even meals. The districts’ Dataseam systems engineers are supporting both the university’s work and K-12 efforts. We all are proud to be ‘digital first responders’ in Kentucky’s part of the global fight.”
As part of the Dataseam partnership, UofL provides academic scholarships annually for students from participating school districts who come to the university to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering or math.
By Betty Coffman, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Kentucky) – Dataseam success shared with the world in a recent Forbes article. Skills and Workforce author, Nicholas Wyman, highlighted how the innovation of this private company helps maximize public assets to enhance classroom technology and change the way cancer researchers find and create potential life-saving therapies. Read the Article Online.
(Louisville, KY) – Thirty-two high school students and parents from Russell Independent, Paducah Tilghman, Elliott County and Whitley County Schools toured the main campus, cancer center and engineering maker space at the University of Louisville to learn about areas of study, career options and scholarship opportunities.
The full day featured visits to the research labs at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center where Dr. John Trent and several teams of scientists use the data processed on the DataseamGrid to search for and develop potential cancer drugs. The multi-discipline approach employs physicians, engineers, chemists, biologists, computer science specialists and others to fight cancer.
Representatives from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering outlined degrees available and highlighted work experience each student receives through internships at local companies. Students graduate in five years with a Master of Engineering degree and marketable work experience that takes them beyond the books.
Students were really impressed with the associated 1B First Build professional maker space where students can co-create potential products. Backed by GE Appliances, the campus facility provides students access to world-class engineering and design talent as well as some of the latest manufacturing equipment.
Students from schools in the Dataseam program interested in studying Engineering, Science, Medical Research or Health Sciences should apply today (link). Specific DataseamScholarships as well as other programs to help with the cost of college are available. Deadline January 15.
Partnering universities have provided over $2.2 million in 4-year scholarships to students from Dataseam-participating schools to advance Kentucky’s workforce in STEM and STEM education.