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University of Missouri adds advanced technology to NextGen Precision Health initiative


Eric Stann

Collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific to focus on materials and life science research and STEM education.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri announced today a collaboration agreement that includes several new instruments from Thermo Fisher Scientific that will be added to three UM universities.

Developing innovations in precision health care is one of the key components of the systemwide NextGen Precision Health initiative, which includes collaborations among researchers at all four UM System universities — Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), and the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL).

“The goal for NextGen Precision Health is to improve health outcomes for people across Missouri and beyond,” said Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri. “We have the people in place capable of the groundbreaking, collaborative work needed to make that possible, and world-class researchers and clinicians need tools equal to the task in order to maximize their impact. This industry-leading equipment will allow NextGen to fulfill its promise.”

Three of the four UM System universities will now be home to advanced Thermo Fisher instruments for materials and life scientists. The MU Electron Microscopy Core Facility, which houses electron microscopes and related equipment used to magnify and analyze images at the molecular level, will add six instruments, including Thermo Scientific Krios G4 Cryo-TEM, Thermo Scientific Aquilos Cryo-FIB, Thermo Scientific Helios Hydra, and the Thermo Scientific Spectra 300 TEM. Missouri S&T has received the Thermo Scientific Nexsa XPS, Thermo Scientific Prisma Color SEM and Thermo Scientific Helios Hydra CX, and UMSL is housing the Thermo Scientific Apreo C HiVac.

“Missouri S&T researchers are known around the world for pushing the boundaries of science and technology. The Thermo Fisher equipment will allow us to further expand those boundaries by enabling our researchers to conduct research at the nanoscale and learn more about structure and composition of unique materials,” Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani said. “This will significantly enhance our knowledge in areas like biomedicine, materials science, chemistry and physics for years to come.”

The instruments and a significant in-kind contribution from Thermo Fisher will provide some of the necessary tools needed for greater collaboration among researchers, clinicians and industry leaders when developing innovations for precision health care.

“As the premier public research university in eastern Missouri, the University of Missouri–St. Louis is a key driver in advancing scientific discoveries that impact every facet of our daily lives,” UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “By harnessing the expertise of UMSL researchers with the innovative technologies of Thermo Fischer, we are better equipped to bring meaningful advances in the material and life sciences, to solve complex analytical challenges, and to strengthen ties with local industry through collaboration and preparation of future employees.”

Jackie Lewis, vice chancellor for advancement at MU, believes the contribution is another example of the importance of philanthropy to the mission of higher education.

“MU’s collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific brings together the best of scientific expertise and world-class instrumentation,” Lewis said. “This positions us at the forefront of discovery in both material and life sciences to create a better world – and that is the power of philanthropy.”

Collaborations such as this will allow the initiative to fulfill its promise to the people across Missouri and beyond by bringing together all parts of the process for electron microscopy analysis into one centralized location.

“The instruments and in-kind contribution from Thermo Fisher mean NextGen will house a complete pipeline for electron microscopy analysis under one roof,” said Richard Barohn, executive director of NextGen Precision Health and the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at MU. “Through Thermo Fisher, we are obtaining the highest quality modern electron microscopy available anywhere in the U.S. It will enable our scientists to visualize not only cells but proteins in order to unravel the mystery of many diseases beyond our current capabilities.”

Tommi White is the director of the Electron Microscopy Core Facility and assistant research professor in the Department of Biochemistry, who also received her bachelor’s degree and doctorate in biochemistry from MU. White said the new equipment will allow researchers to be able to view molecular processes in higher resolution and perform more advanced experiments than with the facility’s current equipment. She believes this addition will now put MU into an elite category of research universities.

“We will be able to see, in great detail, how cells, tissues, bacteria, viruses and even proteins function,” White said. “These new instruments have broader functionality, including higher resolution imagery, accelerated data collection, and more automation. For instance, we will now be able to compare how diseased cells function compared to cells in a healthy state. Overall, this greatly expands our ability to do research, and by saving time with these instruments, we can produce faster research results to enable the discovery of potential treatments.”

In particular, proteins are involved in all aspects of development of diseases. By studying a protein’s structure under the magnified view of an electron microscope, this new view helps show how proteins function, which is crucial for developing innovative treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Also, researchers studying various aspects of COVID-19 have previously benefited from the use of cryo-transmission electron microscopy, one of the techniques possible with the Krios Cryo-TEM from Thermo Fisher.

“We are dedicated to expanding access to electron microscopy and promoting STEM education through the use of high-powered technology,” said John Sos, president of materials and structural analysis at Thermo Fisher. “By collaborating with the University of Missouri and bringing life and materials science together in this way, we enable microscopists of the future to address novel scientific questions now.”

All of the equipment will continue to be available for use by any industry, researcher or clinician associated with work at one of the four UM System universities.


Reviewed 2021-03-25