Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences has received a $9.5 million grant to create research space that will house a Collaborative Cluster in Genome Structure and Developmental Patterning in Health and Disease. The space will bring together experts in such areas as genome structure and stability, developmental and regenerative biology, and tissue engineering to focus on "genome to organism" research to advance treatment of hereditary diseases, prevent birth defects and facilitate tissue regeneration.
The design and construction will be funded with an award of $9,463,691 issued by the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
"We are delighted that NIH has selected Tufts to build this cutting-edge facility," said Tufts University Provost Jamshed Bharucha. "It will enable our burgeoning biology department, co-located with faculty from other life science disciplines, to expand into new and cross-disciplinary fields of discovery."
The cluster will create integrated space at 200 Boston Avenue, Medford, for approximately 70 researchers from the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences biology department.
"These scientists will be housed in state-of-the-art space within steps of each other, which will facilitate our ability to work together to tackle problems in biology and medicine," said Professor Sergei Mirkin, Ph.D., who holds the White Family Chair in Biology.
Already located in the building are biomedical researchers from the department of biology and the School of Engineering who work together to study regenerative medicine, nanobiological structures, neural processes and biomimetic devices.
"Biologists in the cluster will be able to partner with engineers to translate research into techniques and devices to alleviate disease and heal injury," said Michael Levin, Ph.D., professor of biology and director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. Tufts' emphasis on cross-disciplinary work was an important factor in Levin's decision to come to Tufts last year.
"We also expect the cluster to intensify collaboration with math and computer science faculty and with researchers from such external organizations as Harvard Medical School and the National Institutes of Health," said Juliet Fuhrman, Ph.D., chair of biology.
Over the next two years, Tufts will redesign office and laboratory space at 200 Boston Avenue into 16,527 square feet of wet laboratories and associated support facilities. The new space will be designed to LEED Gold certification standards.
Cummings Foundation, Inc., a private operating foundation based in Woburn, Massachusetts, owns the property at 200 Boston Avenue.
Tufts University biologists have been at the forefront of understanding the roles of both genome instability and dysregulation of normal development in human disease. They are credited with uncovering the first multistranded DNA structure (triplex H-DNA), discovering that the anomalous replication of DNA microsatellites is a common source of genome instability, and unraveling molecular mechanisms of chromosome fragility. In developmental biology, they are credited with several revolutionary approaches for the rational control of large scale patterning in eye, heart, and kidney development; limb induction; spinal cord/muscle regeneration; left right asymmetry; craniofacial patterning and nervous system development. They have made key contributions toward understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the biophysical multi-scale patterning control systems that guide embryonic development, regenerative repair and prevention of cancer.
Current collaborations include studies in model systems of diseases like fragile X mental retardation and Huntington's and Friedreich's ataxia, as well as the molecular modulation of natural ionic and voltage gradients to induce regeneration of vertebrate kidneys, limbs, eyes and other structures.