Biosciences Initiative awards $5.1M to enhance research cores


Scientific equipment used across the breadth of biology at the University of Michigan is getting a boost in the form of $5.1 million from the Biosciences Initiative Coordinating Committee to enhance four research core labs.

The grants are from BSI’s new Core Lab Funding Program, which aims to improve technology and services in the biosciences, and advance research capabilities by upgrading existing cores and creating new ones.

“This funding mechanism is providing entirely new cutting-edge technologies that will ensure our researchers can continue to make groundbreaking discoveries,” said BSI Project Manager Donna Ray, who leads the Core Lab Funding Program.

Research cores are centralized facilities or labs that offer shared services, shared equipment, resources or expertise to scientific researchers. Cores are an important resource for students, staff and faculty, and can significantly impact research throughout the university.

The four newly awarded cores are using their BSI funds toward instruments that aid in understanding complex research challenges. They include:

  • Mass Spectrometers, Biological Mass Spectrometry Facility, principal investigator Brandon Ruotolo, professor of chemistry — Four mass spectrometers are being funded, one of which is the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Among other capabilities, these instruments help researchers in drug discovery and biotherapeutics research.
  • Light Sheet Microscope, Biomedical Research Core Facilities Microscopy Core, principal investigator Aaron Taylor, managing director of the Microscopy and Image Analysis Laboratory — Uses a very thin sheet of light, allowing users to examine living cells and embryos in 3-D.
  • Acoustic Liquid Handler, Center for Chemical Genomics, principal investigator Andrew Alt, director of the Center for Chemical Genomics — Emits sound waves to dispense incredibly small samples, furthering drug discovery and efficient screening of drug libraries.
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Instrumentation, BioNMR Core, principal investigator Emily Scott, professor of medicinal chemistry, of pharmacology, and of biophysics — Analyzes molecules to expand the development of anti-cancer therapeutics and drug metabolism studies.

“Lattice light sheet microscopy is an essential new tool, and this Biosciences Initiative grant will bring the first microscope of this kind to U-M,” said Taylor, director of the Biomedical Research Core Facilities Microscopy Core.

The Core Lab Funding Program also strives to increase applications to the National Institutes of Health S10 Instrumentation Programs by providing supporting funds to researchers who apply for and receive an S10 grant.

Currently, U-M lags behind its peers in obtaining these NIH equipment grants, which support purchases of state-of-the-art research instruments.

To promote and improve U-M applications, BSI is partnering with the Office of Research to offer an NIH S10 grant-writing workshop. All faculty and researchers are welcome to attend at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 24 in Palmer Commons Forum Hall.

BSI’s Core Lab Funding Program is an ongoing program and accepts applications on a rolling basis. However, applications are reviewed quarterly. The next review will take place by January 2020. Applications included in this next review must be submitted by Nov. 6.


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