Researchers receive $2M NIH instrumentation grant

by Alan Flurry

The National Institutes of Health has awarded University of Georgia researchers $1.956 million for a high-resolution mass spectrometer that will enhance capabilities for scientists in many fields across campus.

The award by the NIH High End Instrumentation program, which provides grants in the range of $600,000 to $2 million for a variety of expensive instrumentation, including MRI imagers, electron microscopes, DNA sequencers, and mass spectrometers, was one of 30 awards made in the program, and one of only six mass spectrometer requests funded in the 2018 cycle.

The grant funded a 12 Tesla Bruker Solarix FTMS, a high-resolution mass spectrometer capable of measuring molecular weights with precision accuracy that can be applied to molecules ranging in size from small metabolic products to intact proteins and protein complexes. It can also provide molecular structure through a multidimensional analysis method known as tandem mass spectrometry. The instrument will be used to support research in metabolomics and glycomics, the analysis of genetic, physiologic and pathologic aspects of sugar molecules involved in all biological process from modulating cell function to determining cancer development.

“This instrument will enhance the research capabilities for a number of scientists in chemistry, the biological sciences and biomedical research, and will help foster interdisciplinary research projects between groups in a number of departments and colleges at the university,” said Jon Amster, professor and head of the department of chemistry and principal investigator on the grant.

Over a dozen researchers will be major users of this instrument, which will be housed in the Amster laboratory in the department of chemistry.

“The new 12T FT-ICR instrument will greatly improve our ability to perform metabolomics analysis, especially regarding to the identification of unknown metabolites, since this instrument has higher accuracy and resolving power than the current instruments at UGA,” said Belen Cassera, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, member of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, and co-principal investigator on the grant. “This type of grant can be particularly difficult to obtain and it is a privilege for me to be part of an amazing team of investigators that put together this application.”

“Virtually every metabolomics project we have going right now will benefit from this new instrumentation grant,” said Art Edison, GRA Eminent Scholar, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and a co-principal investigator on the grant. “High resolution mass spectrometry is a very important tool for the analysis of complex biological mixtures and unknown metabolite identification in applications ranging from human disease to carbon cycling in the ocean to model organisms for pathway analysis.”

Of the 104 NIH shared instrumentation grants made this year during 2018, only 10 were in the range of $1.9 million to $2 million.

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