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Researchers will share $1.2 million in grants from NIH

The National Institutes of Health has awarded UGA two grants totaling $1.2 million for instrumentation to advance chemical analytical capabilities of biomedical researchers across campus. Jeff Urbauer (left) received funding for an NMR console, and Jon Amster (right) was funded for a new mass spectrometer.

The new equipment will allow researchers to accurately measure, characterize and test individual molecules, advancing  their understanding of human diseases, ranging from insect vectors of infectious diseases to discovery of cancer biomarkers.

UGA received a highly competitive High-End Instrumentation award in the amount of $832,030 to purchase a Thermo Fisher Orbitrap Elite mass spectrometer. The new instrument will be used principally for the study of the structures and functions of proteins.

“Having a facility on campus so that researchers can walk just a few minutes from their lab to talk to the person who’s running their sample, and then be able to look at results and decide what they ought to do differently—that will make a tremendous difference,” said Jon Amster, principal investigator on the NIH High-End Instrumentation grant and head of UGA’s chemistry department.

“We’re going to be getting the next generation instrument, which is vastly better—much more sensitive. This kind of resource is indispensable,” said Edward Kipreos, professor of cellular biology.

Kipreos’ research uses mass spectrometry to determine protein substrates as they relate to the cell cycle, with possible applications in cancer research.

NIH also awarded UGA a $363,700 grant for a new electronics console for the 800 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer housed in the Fred C. Davison Life Sciences Complex. The more reliable console will further research in protein chemistry, cellular communication, medical imaging and other areas. Like mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy gives researchers insight into the physical and chemical properties of samples. 

“Not only is it replacing an existing ­instrument, but its capabilities are significantly enhanced,” said Jeffrey Urbauer, associate professor of chemistry and principal investigator on the grant.

Urbauer’s research group uses the 800 MHz NMR to examine the structure and stability of protein molecules. He is particularly interested in studying the estrogen receptor, the primary chemotherapeutic target for breast cancer.

“This works by leapfrogging. A campus will win one of these awards, set up a first-rate, world-leading instrumentation facility and everybody from around the country, and especially the region, will end up using it,” said Robert Scott, associate vice president for research. “These awards are a major leap forward for UGA.”

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