New major equipment funding enhances science research across IU Bloomington campus

A new Major Scientific Equipment Fund is providing for the purchase and installation of major equipment that will enhance the scientific research infrastructure of the Indiana University Bloomington campus.

Established by IU President Michael A. McRobbie, the fund supports strategic investments in equipment that is critical to scientific research addressing the needs of Hoosiers.

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IU senior scientist Maren Pink will lead the acquisition of one of the pieces of equipment supported under the Major Scientific Equipment Fund. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Vice President for Research

"This new equipment fund and the tools it provides to our researchers demonstrate Indiana University's deep commitment to investing in all forms of research," McRobbie said. "We have great confidence that these sorts of investments will help our researchers excel in the generation of new knowledge and push forward the boundaries of their fields."

The fund's first commitment of $1.15 million supported the purchase of a cryo-electron microscope, or cryo-EM, in the spring. Cryo-electron microscopy was the subject of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and allows for imaging and three-dimensional reconstruction of tiny objects, such as complicated proteins, at the level of individual atoms. This includes understanding protein-drug interactions, an essential tool in developing new therapies for disease.

The proposal was led by Carl Bauer, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry; Roger Innes, professor of biology and director of IU's Electron Microscopy Center; and David P. Giedroc, Lilly Chemistry Alumni Professor and co-director of IU's Precision Health Initiative Grand Challenge.

Support for the cryo-EM is also being provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington and the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.

The second investment from the fund, totaling $622,522, will be used to purchase and install a modern X-ray single crystal diffractometer. X-ray crystallography is a technique used to determine the atomic and molecular structure of organic and inorganic materials that can form crystals. It's also used to reveal the structure of biological molecules, such as nucleic acids and protein complexes involved in human diseases like cancer. The new device will specialize in the measurement of large molecules.

Acquisition of the equipment is being led by Maren Pink, director of the IU Molecular Structure Center and senior scientist in the Department of Chemistry. Pink estimates that the new instrument will enable research projects in more than 30 research groups spanning numerous science and science-related departments at IU Bloomington.

The College of Arts and Sciences and Department of Chemistry will also contribute financial support for the project.

"These two new instruments will support the critical research of IU faculty, facilitate external funding for research that requires this infrastructure, and advance efforts to understand and treat diseases affecting millions of people," said Fred Cate, IU vice president for research.

"In addition, the new instruments will enhance the work of students and help attract new faculty and students in a variety of research areas," Cate said.

Lauren Bryant is the associate director of research development communications in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington.