Published February 6, 2015
University at Buffalo biochemist and genomics entrepreneur Norma J. Nowak, PhD, professor of biochemistry, has been promoted to executive director of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS).
Previously the center’s director of science and technology, Nowak is an internationally recognized human genomics researcher who brings both scientific and business expertise to her new role.
“We have full confidence that she will lead the CBLS to even greater heights,” says Venu Govindaraju, PhD, UB’s interim vice president for research and economic development. “She is intimately familiar with the organization’s mission to drive innovation and facilitate economic development.”
The center connects private industry with university resources, housing both UB faculty investigators and life sciences companies in its downtown Buffalo facility. More than 250 interdisciplinary scientists and research staff collaborate on diverse biomedical projects encompassing:
Nowak’s research has contributed directly to the Human Genome Project and genomic-based approaches to understanding heritable disorders and cancer.
She and her team are developing approaches to understanding and using information encoded in the genome to improve patient care, disease treatment and prevention.
She also is working to actively translate that knowledge into meaningful resources for researchers, clinicians and patients.
Nowak is the founder and chief scientific officer of Empire Genomics LLC, a molecular diagnostics company employing novel tools to diagnose genetic disease and enable personalized medicine — treatments based on a patient’s genetic makeup.
Among numerous recognitions, Nowak received the American Association of Cancer Research Team Science Award for significant contributions to comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and array CGH. She also has been honored for her genetic research with the Thomas B. Tomasi, MD, PhD, Achievement Award from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
She has authored and co-authored 144 research articles.
For more than a decade, Nowak led the Genomics Shared Resource lab involving researchers from the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Roswell Park. Previously, she conducted research at Roswell Park to develop resources for cloning disease genes and mapping the human genome.
Nowak was instrumental in obtaining more than $70 million for research and infrastructure.
She also has played a key role in creating the state-supported Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics within the CBLS. Leveraging local assets, the institute is helping to develop companies that support genomic medicine while positioning New York State as a national leader in this emerging field.
Nowak serves on the Empire State Stem Cell Board for New York State as well as the boards of the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo business incubator competition, 43North.