This year, the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute celebrated a decade of transformative science. Since its debut in Silverman Hall in 2009, the Institute’s team science approach to integrating engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and medicine has led to unprecedented breakthroughs in biomedical research and the development of new drugs and diagnostics (see video).
CLP realized its vision in 2019 with numerous research collaborations among CLP’s 66 faculty members (7 new to the Institute this year), including:
- Nathan Gianneschi developed a ‘Trojan horse’ anticancer drug that disguises itself as fat.
- Neurobiologist Bill Klein pioneered a new approach to Alzheimer’s diagnostics and therapeutics, supported by CLP’s preclinical imaging expertise and instrumentation.
- Monica Olvera de la Cruz upended the current understanding of matter with the discovery that nanoparticles engineered with DNA in colloidal crystals — when extremely small — behave just like electrons.
- Richard Silverman and Neil Kelleher collaborated on new therapeutic approach to liver cancer.
CLP advanced its mission to translate faculty innovations from the laboratory to the patient bedside with new partnerships and programs:
- The Institute hosted a national investor summit in April that brought investors to campus to learn about high impact translational projects in CLP labs. Half of the presentations resulted in direct investor interest. Based on this success, a second ‘Biotech by the Lake’ event will be held in May 2020.
- To help demystify the drug development process for Northwestern faculty and students, CLP Entrepreneur-In-Residence Bill Sargent wrote and published online the ‘Beginner’s Guide to Academic Drug Development’.
Faculty innovations that have spun out from, or originated with, CLP are finding success in areas ranging from cancer treatment to agriculture:
- Actuate is expanding clinical trials of a new treatment for metastatic cancer and fibrosis.
- Durametrix is rolling out a novel screening method for toxicity to accelerate drug development.
- MicroMGx Inc. is partnering with Corteva Agriscience to accelerate development of microbial-based crop protection products using MicroMGx’s proprietary metabologenomics platform.
The Institute’s growing portfolio of critical technologies have supported and opened up many new areas of investigation:
- A $660K NIH Instrument Award to CLP’s Quantitative Bioelement Imaging Center will enable this core facility to acquire advanced instrumentation that will enable dynamic measurement of the metal content and their localization in cells from healthy and diseased tissues.
Looking to the future, the Institute continues to engage students in transdisciplinary research and translation. CLP’s NIH-funded graduate training program and donor-funded undergraduate research programs have trained budding scientists like Viswajit Kandula, Ryan McClure and Jennifer Ferrer, to work across disciplinary silos to lead the next wave of scientific discovery.
by Lisa La Vallee