$3 million granted to Chicago Biomedical Consortium

Consortium allows joint access of resources by UChicago, Northwestern, UIC.

By Eileen Li

A $3 million grant was recently given to the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) by the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) to fund cutting-edge scientific infrastructure.

This May, the CBC introduced the Open Access Initiative to ensure that researchers could access each other’s instrumentation and other resources without paying additional fees. Under the initiative, new instrumentation will be shared, with each institution contributing staff, space, and support.

The CBC was founded in 2001, following philanthropist Dan Searle’s challenge to the three major research universities in the Chicago area to strengthen biomedical research by fostering cooperation—not competition—across institutions. The Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust gave $5 million per year to fund the CBC from 2006 to 2011, and renewed funding for 2011 to 2015.

The University will match the $1 million it receives from the CBC to acquire a $1.6-million cryo-electron (cryoEM) microscope. The microscope will enhance imaging capabilities used for molecular engineering and structural biology. With it, researchers will be able to prepare specimens in optimal conditions when dealing with challenging projects.

The abilities of the microscope will be combined with Northwestern’s new electron detector to complement an already existing $5-million cryo-electron microscope core facility. After specimens are prepared at UChicago with the aid of the new microscope, they will then be sent to the cryoEM facility for analysis. CryoEM allows samples to be studied at cryogenic temperatures without being stained or fixed in any way, allowing researchers to see unaltered samples in their native environment.

UIC will use its portion of the money to establish a single-cell analysis core, which is used for gene expression analysis and direct quantitative measure of proteins for individual cells. Through the use of the system, scientists will have the opportunity to differentiate between single cells in a population, currently an important frontier in biomedicine.

The CBC announced the grant on November 10.