Government, academic and industry leaders gathered on Tuesday, Oct. 4, for the official opening of the Massachusetts High-Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility at UMass Medical School. The cryo-EM research core is the first in New England, and one of only a handful nationwide. The state-of-the-art technology is transforming biomedical research with unprecedented clarity of images at the cellular, molecular and atomic levels.
“This is a very important moment,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “Today we are able to expand and strengthen the life sciences ecosystem here in Massachusetts, and in the country.”
U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern said the new technology will “usher in a new generation of scientific advances.”
“The science that will be done here is going to be life changing for so many people,” McGovern said. “Through the collaboration of UMMS, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and many others, research done in this facility has the potential to advance us toward cures for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s and other diseases that plague our families and cost us our health care system millions of dollars each year.”
Cryo-EM was dubbed the “research method of the year” by the journal Nature Methods and spotlighted in a blog by National Institutes of Health Director Frances Collins, PhD. It catapults scientists’ understanding of structural biology and advances drug development for a wide range of disease.
Two cryo-EM systems comprise the newly built facility. The first to be acquired, in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, was the Titan Krios model, which was supported by a $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute funded the $4 million Talos-Arctica system. The facility is being run under the direction of physicist and materials scientist Chen Xu, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry & molecular biology, who is internationally recognized for his cryo-EM expertise.
Also attending the opening were State Senators Harriette L. Chandler and Michael Moore; State Representatives James O’Day and John Mahoney; Philip Perlman, PhD, director of research facilities and senior scientific officer for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Travis McCready, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; Robert Coughlin, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council; Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus; Kevin O’Sullivan, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Initiative; and numerous students and scientists from UMMS and other research universities from the region.
All were welcomed to the new facility by UMMS Chancellor Michael F. Collins; Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, dean of the School of Medicine, and executive deputy chancellor and provost; Nobel Laureate Craig Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Blais University Professor in Molecular Medicine and distinguished professor of molecular medicine and cell & developmental biology; Associate Provost for Research Jean King, PhD; and Dr. Xu.
“Coming to this great medical center revitalizes in me the desire to get back into the lab and solve the problems that our patients are facing,” said Dr. Mello. “There’s so much work to do! I look forward to doing everything I can to live up to this responsibility.”
Learn more about cryo-EM at UMass Medical School at http://www.umassmed.edu/research/cores/CryoEM/.
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