At first glance, there seems to be little in common between biochemistry research in medicine and agriculture. On closer inspection, the relationship becomes profound as life and disease processes are very similar at the genetic and molecular level.
For more than a quarter of a century, investigators from the University of Missouri School of Medicine and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources have collaborated in the investigation of basic biochemistry research.
In mid-February their efforts got a boost with the dedication of a $10 million facility that more formally unites this research and teaching between the two colleges. The new 26,000-sq.-ft. facility features an archway “bridge” that symbolizes the collaboration between the two MU schools.
The state-of-the-art laboratory is an addition to historic Schweitzer Hall, originally constructed in 1912 on the white limestone campus. It links the building with the adjacent Schlundt Building Annex.
The new space will allow researchers now scattered across campus from both schools to work in a single location. It will also allow these investigators to be in closer proximity to related research at MU, such as in the nearby Bond Life Sciences Center and physics and chemistry buildings.
The entire complex off College Avenue now contains 26 laboratories.
The ground level of the new facility houses a $2.3 million 800 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, a device that analyzes molecules of medical, agricultural and industrial importance. It is the only such machine in Missouri and one of only a handful in the nation.
At the dedication ceremony, Marc Linit, Ph.D., associate dean of CAFNR, recognized the historic nature of the collaboration.
“The facility you see here, and the concept behind it, is one of the true success stories of MU,” he said. “Thirty-five years ago a group of researchers in what was then known as the Ag School’s Ag Chemistry Department and Med School’s Physiological Chemistry Department realized that a collaborative approach between the two areas could yield far greater results than the two departments working separately.
“Despite being located on opposite ends of the campus and coming from different schools and cultures, they persevered and created one of the first significant and effective multi-college research and education partnerships that has not only pioneered the concept, but served as a role model for other MU entities that followed.”
“With more than 300 undergraduate students, the MU biochemistry degree program is one of the largest undergraduate biochemistry programs in the United States.”
“Students are attracted to CAFNR’s strong biochemistry program because of its rigor, opportunities for research experiences in internationally prominent laboratories and the strong foundation that it provides for post-graduation employment, graduate or professional school,” Gerald Hazelbauer, chair of MU’s Department of Biochemistry said.
“Having all biochemistry faculty in one place will enhance this educational experience and expose students to the latest thinking and advances in this discipline,” he continued. “It will also strengthen undergraduate research efforts by providing immediate hands-on work and access to the best faculty available.”
In research, these new facilities and the improved ability to collaborate will help speed the revolutionary changes that are occurring in our understanding of life processes and in MU’s ability to modify them, Hazelbauer continued.
“The synthesis of biology, chemistry and genetics from which biochemistry takes its origins is relatively new to modern science. Bright and energetic students continue to be fascinated by the opportunities to seek new knowledge, to help develop the tools with which to probe life’s secrets and to use that knowledge and those tools to improve human lives.”