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Oklahoman tech briefs, July 1

Oklahoman tech briefs, July 1, 2014
Oklahoman Published: July 1, 2014

Tech bytes

American Fidelity gets honor

American Fidelity Assurance Co., based in Oklahoma City, again made Computerworld’s list of Best Places to Work in IT, coming in at No. 18 among midsized companies. It was American Fidelity’s 12th consecutive appearance on the list. Chief Information Officer Kim Fishers said American Fidelity’s 200 IT employees “work diligently to make life easier” for customers and colleagues. “We strive to reward them by creating an environment where they love coming to work each day,” Fisher said. “Making this list for 12 straight years also helps us recruit top talent, which is crucial as we continuously add software developers, database developers, technical infrastructure analysts and other IT positions to our team to better serve our customers.” The Best Places to Work in Information Technology list is an annual ranking of the top 100 work environments for technology professionals by IDG’s Computerworld. The list is compiled based on a comprehensive questionnaire regarding company offerings in categories such as benefits, career development, training and retention. Computerworld also conducts surveys of IT workers, and their responses factor heavily in determining the rankings. American Fidelity Assurance Co., founded in 1960, has grown to become one of the nation’s largest private, family owned life and health insurance companies.

OMRF gets national health grant

The National Institutes of Health has again designated the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation an Autoimmunity Center of Excellence. With the renewed federal designation comes a new five-year grant of $2.38 million to fund research on lupus and other autoimmune diseases at OMRF. The Oklahoma City-based organization is one of only 10 sites — along with such academic medical centers such as the University of Chicago, Harvard and Stanford — to earn the Autoimmunity Center of Excellence designation. Led by principal investigator Judith James, M.D. Ph.D., a team of OMRF scientists and physicians will use the funds to develop a better understanding of and treatments for autoimmune diseases. These are conditions in which the immune system becomes unbalanced and proteins or cells that would normally protect from harmful invaders begin attacking the body’s own tissues. “There’s a profound need for new treatments for autoimmune diseases,” said James, who holds the Lou C. Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF. “By integrating clinical trials and other patient-oriented research, we hope to accelerate the process of delivering new therapies to the patients who need them most.” The first five-year ACE grant, which was awarded to OMRF in 2009, has already spawned important research advances, said James. “The grant funds and the collaborations were integral for Kathy Sivils, Ph.D., to do the first large-scale genome-wide association study of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome,” an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s moisture-producing glands. “This led to the discovery of at least six new Sjögren’s-related genes.” The grant, said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., serves two important functions. “This award not only recognizes our scientists’ substantial contributions to the field of autoimmune disease research, but it lays the groundwork for the next generation of breakthroughs,” Prescott said.

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