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Unlocking the Next Wave of Biomedical Breakthroughs

Chemistry of Life Processes Institute is an incubator for breakthrough science that improves lives and defines new fields of study. Our world-leading faculty are dedicated to finding new ways to prevent, treat, and diagnose disease through a transdisciplinary approach that unlocks novel ideas through team science and propels biomedical research forward.  Chemists, biologists, engineers, physicists and clinicians work together to find new treatments for cancer, neurodegenerative disease, heart disease and Alzheimer’s and develop cutting-edge tools for drug discovery and development.

Major Focus Areas

The Institute’s vision for 21st century science emerges from complementary strengths in drug discovery and development, preclinical imaging, proteomics, cell free synthesis, physiochemical analysis, and nanoscale imaging. The next waves of technology for early detection and treatment of a broad array of diseases will arise from this multi-pronged attack.

CLP’s five areas of strategic focus leverage key institutional strengths and promise the highest potential impact:

Understanding the Human Proteome and Deploy this Platform to Fight Disease

The Human Proteome Project (HPP) is a massive worldwide undertaking that aims to revolutionize our understanding of the human proteome and disease by precisely characterizing every protein form, at least 1 billion, in the human body.

Working in concert with investigators within Northwestern and across the world, CLP leverages Northwestern investments in cutting edge proteomics capabilities and expertise to develop new, highly accurate and sensitive methods to detect disease-related proteins in blood to enhance diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases.

Developing Non-Genetic Strategies to Control Cancer

Research has shown that genetic mutations in DNA alone are insufficient for identifying the causes of tumor growth. Therapies based on gene mutations that target single signaling pathways can lead to the evolution of drug resistant tumors that grow and spread despite treatment.  Integrated teams of CLP researchers use proprietary methods to understand how tumor cell behavior can be reversed by changing the chromatin (RNA, DNA and protein that make up chromosomes) landscape. With this knowledge, they develop highly sensitive, non-invasive methods to detect precancerous cells and to develop new therapeutics to treat cancer.

Assessing and Treating Disease Through ‘Theranostics’

Cancer and heart disease are the two leading causes of death in the developed world and there is a strong need for methods for early detection and targeted therapy.  CLP is making rapid progress in the new field of theranostics, which combines therapy and diagnostics, to create “smart” drugs that are designed to image and target tumors and clogged blood vessels with agents that stimulate the body’s immune response.  CLP expedites the clinical translation of these new technologies to diagnose and treat cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Decoding the Role of Metals in Human Health and Disease

Our bodies contain a surprising amount of metal. Essential metals such as calcium, iron, copper and zinc poise a dilemma to the human body:  too much of any metal can be toxic, while too little can cause disease. Our cells carefully monitor and control their metal content using a whole series of proteins that bind, sense and transport metal ions. Using cutting-edge instruments and methods for determining the role of metal signatures in diseases, CLP scientists identify highly durable biomarkers for diagnosing and treating a range of diseases from cancer and infectious diseases to infertility and neurodegenerative diseases.

Accelerating Team Science

In addition to sparking cutting-edge research, CLP strengthens collaborative research across Northwestern.   Since 2010, team science activities among our members, as measured by joint publications, shared grant awards and grant applications, and shared students, have increased 7-fold among tenure-track faculty as illustrated below:

In the past decade, the Institute’s record of stimulating interdisciplinary collaboration has resulted in:

  • $60 million new external funding
  • $84 million in Northwestern center grants of which CLP and Core personnel and facilities are key components
  • 300% increase in joint publications
  • New research centers
  • Lauded training program
  • 500 NU research programs supported annually by our interdisciplinary platforms for drug discovery and development

Research News

‘Trojan horse’ anticancer drug disguises itself as fat

‘Trojan horse’ anticancer drug disguises itself as fat

For years, drug developers have tried, but failed, to build the perfect biological Trojan horse. Now, a new approach that disguises chemotherapeutic drugs as fat stands to outsmart, penetrate and destroy tumors. For the first time, a team of Northwestern researchers,...

CLP Collaborators Publish New Insight into Liver Cancer

CLP Collaborators Publish New Insight into Liver Cancer

Congratulations to NU scientists Richard B. Silverman and Neil L. Kelleher on their recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, titled “Mechanism of Inactivation of Ornithine Aminotransferase by (1 S,3...