Rice gives grants for outlandish ideas

Rice University's Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering has given out the first grants under the new Hamill Innovation Grant program designed to provide funding for multidisciplinary projects often deemed risky or offbeat.

George Bennett, professor of biochemistry at the University, and and Ka-Yiu San, who teaches chemical engineering, received one of the $15,000 grants to explore new routes to biosynthesize resveratrol, a natural compound found in grapes, mulberries, peanuts, and other plants that has shown promise as a potential cancer fighting agent.

Several universities have begun to create programs where multidisciplinary research can take place. At Stanford, for instance, engineering professors are teaming up with geneticists to try to reduce the costs of genetic cures for certain diseases.

The Hamill grants are, appropriately enough, named for the late Claud B. Hamill, who amassed a fortune in the risky world of oil wildcatting.

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