MSU board accepts Life Science Corridor grant to fund structural biology center

Contact: Terry Denbow, Vice President for University Relations, (517) 355-2262,

Dec 07, 2001

EAST LANSING, Mich. - A grant of more than $17 million - funds that will be used to develop an MSU-based center that will study the structure and function of proteins - was officially accepted by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees at its Dec. 7 meeting.

The Michigan Center for Structural Biology, which will be an integral part of the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor project, will use state-of-the-art equipment to study proteins, work that could ultimately bring insight into causes and cures of disease.

While much attention is given to biotechnology as it relates to genes, it is the product of genes - proteins - that determines the root of many diseases, said Jack Preiss, who co-directs the project along with Shelagh Ferguson-Miller. Both are university distinguished professors in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

"The main products of genes are proteins, and the basis of disease is often a defective protein," Preiss said. "Many of the diseases that afflict the aging population are due to altered proteins.

"Therefore, it is very important to study proteins and yet very difficult," he said. "That is the reason we require all this sophisticated instrumentation to analyze them."

The center will be equipped with a state-of-the-art 900 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. Beam lines also will be constructed for X-ray analysis of protein structure at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

While based at MSU, the center also will involve major collaborative efforts with the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and the Van Andel Research Institute of Grand Rapids.

The Michigan Center for Structural Biology was one of 14 MSU research projects funded by grants from the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor project. In the first round of funding, MSU received more than $40 million in grants.

Established with $1 billion from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement, the Life Sciences Corridor was created to invest in and promote life sciences research and business development. The state plans to award millions of dollars annually for 20 years to universities, research institutes and biotechnology companies.