$4M Awarded to Case Western Reserve to Develop Structural Biology Instrument

CLEVELAND - Led by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Mark Chance, PhD, director of the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has been awarded $4 million for work with the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.

The NSF grant of $2.7 million, with a match of nearly $1.2 million from the university and a $100,000 award from the State of Ohio Board of Regents, makes it the largest NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program grant awarded in 2012 and the largest NSF grant awarded to Case Western Reserve since 2009.

This grant provides funding to extend the university’s world-class structural biology facilities by developing a state-of-the-art instrument for the new synchrotron user facility at the Case Center for Synchrotron Biosciences at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“This instrumentation allows us to understand the crucial role of water and its structure, and the role it plays in both the signaling process and binding of drugs to proteins in the body,” says Chance, who also serves as the vice dean of research for the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “These details will help scientists develop new materials, optimize small-molecule and biologic drugs, probe the structures of molecules within living cells and answer fundamental questions related to chemistry and biochemistry.”

The new instrument, a wiggler beamline for X-ray synchrotron footprinting, will probe the structures of protein and nucleic acid-based molecular machines on timescales from microseconds to minutes, and will reveal intimate details of the interactions of these molecules with their environment.

“The beamline will surpass our current cutting-edge facility as the premier resource for synchrotron footprinting in the world,” adds Jen Bohon, PhD, instructor in the Division of General Medical Sciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and a lead scientist for the Center for Synchrotron Biosciences.

Case Western Reserve scientists have operated a suite of X-ray based synchrotron facilities at Brookhaven since 2005 under Chance’s leadership, supported by $8 million in center funding from the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health. The facilities are managed by faculty and staff at the university’s Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics, including scientists in New York and Cleveland.

The multiple X-ray instruments available at Brookhaven support an international clientele of about 500 users from nearly 100 of the world’s top academic institutions, research institutes, and government laboratories. They are conducting ground-breaking research and develop novel technologies in structural biology.

“The new beamline has the potential to enhance the capabilities of the Center and will allow researchers there to obtain more detailed structural information that can benefit the entire scientific community,” says Alan McLaughlin, PhD, Director of the Division of Applied Science and Technology at NIBIB.

In addition, the grant will fund education and outreach activities conducted by faculty and staff at many levels, from training high school students to PhD-level scientists, significantly expanding the impact of science.

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report's "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine is affiliated with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002. case.edu/medicine.