Research Infrastructure Investment Program: 2022 Awards

The following are brief descriptions of the projects (taken directly from the original proposals) selected for Research Infrastructure Investment Program awards in 2022. These awards are designed to facilitate interdisciplinary partnerships and strengthen the University’s research infrastructure. One-to-one matching funds from the collaborating colleges, institutes and/or centers were required for funding eligibility.

Li-Cor Portable Photosynthesis System for High Throughput Analysis of Plant Response to Environmental Change

Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences
Matching funds: College of Biological Sciences

In our era of rapid global change, the ability to quantify plant responses to changing environments accurately and rapidly can help predict changes in the exchange of carbon and water from plants as they face ongoing climate change and other threats. Capturing photosynthetic and water loss responses to changing environments, including temperature and atmospheric drought, requires high accuracy, speed and and careful environmental control. The LI-6800 portable photosynthesis system provides game-changing advances in terms of measurement speed, environmental control and flexibility. Novel insights will be gained about the critical plant processes of photosynthesis, water loss regulation, and drought response that can be scaled to large spatial extents when coupled with hyperspectral imaging and remote sensing through ongoing work of the ASCEND Biology Integration Institute. Faculty, students and post docs across four departments in two colleges (CBS, CFANS) will use and benefit from investment in the instrument. These benefits will translate to new and renewed external funding. A detailed management plan and use policy are included.

Biomolecular Imaging Instrumentation for Developmental Biology Research

Michael O'Connor, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, College of Biological Sciences
Matching funds: College of Biological Sciences; Medical School; Non-UMN

Developmental biology is the study of how a single fertilized cell proliferates and differentiates into all the specialized tissues and organs of the adult animal. In recent years, the discipline has become very molecularly oriented and uses various model systems including chick, mouse, fruit flies and worms, to specifically manipulate the expression of genes to help discover the molecular and biochemical mechanisms that guide developmental processes. These genetic manipulations require quantifying the degree of overexpression and/or loss of expression of various genes of interest, as well as determining how their gain or loss affects the activity of important downstream developmental processes. Several different types of imaging systems have been developed for these purposes, but the new Odyssey M system from Li-Cor provides an all-in-one solution for measuring DNA, RNA, and protein levels as well as chemical reaction products. This one instrument will replace three separate devices in the Developmental Biology Center (DBC) that are no longer functional or serviceable after >15 years continuous use. The Odyssey M system also offers significant improvements in the dynamic range and reproducibility of the various measurements that it can provide, and in our view, is the best replacement instrument available on the market today for our needs.

R-GEN 200 Multimaterial Printer for the 3D Bioprinting Facility

Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari PhD, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant & Cellular Therapy Program, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School; College of Science & Engineering; College of Science & Engineering

We propose the purchase of a RegenHu R-GEN 200 multimaterial printer with electrospraying capacity. We also request funds for a 0.5 FTE dedicated individual to operate/maintain the facility and train users. Fulfilling these needs will ensure the continued research advances being made by many investigators and the growth of the facility to remain at the forefront of the 3D bioprinting field.

Flow Cytometers for the Masonic Cancer Research Building

Christopher Pennell PhD, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Medical School
Matching funds: Academic Clinical Affairs

We request funds to purchase two new flow cytometers for the University Flow Cytometry Resource (UFCR). Flow cytometers permit thousands of cells in suspension to be analyzed in seconds for parameters such as size, density, viability, function, and phenotype. The new instruments would replace two, 14- and 18-year-old ones in the Masonic Cancer Research Building (MCRB) used by ˜50 faculty. As of September 2022, these instruments will no longer be maintained by the manufacturer under a service contract due to their age, lack of replacement parts, and outdated technology. They are breaking down more and more frequently, hampering experiments, and driving up user costs. Their replacements will provide greater reliability and will allow for more complex and informative experiments that permit high dimensional analyses, a requirement for top-tier publications and external grant support. For example, these state-of-the-art flow cytometers can measure =30 parameters/cell simultaneously (as compared to =16 parameters for the current instruments). Both instruments are identical except that one also has a 96 well plate sampler for high throughput analyses. We can purchase them now at a 25% discount due to a company promotion.

Biomechanical Motion Analysis System

Rajesh Rajamani, Mechanical Engineering, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

This proposal requests funds to purchase a 3D motion tracking system for biomechanical motion analysis. The equipment will consist of a set of infrared cameras and critical accessories that together will be capable of synchronized tracking of human motion over a large capture volume. The equipment is needed for three current research collaborations, in each of which it will serve as a gold-standard reference for validation of novel low-cost sensors and estimation algorithms. The three projects are postural instability analysis in Parkinson’s disease patients, respiratory monitoring in pediatric patients with neuromuscular problems, and human motion analysis in intelligent transportation systems. The new equipment will enhance collaboration between faculty in the Medical School and faculty in the College of Science and Engineering, leading to inter-disciplinary projects that will have significant social/ health impact. Further, the equipment will help validate preliminary research results which will enable submission of multiple large external grant proposals. The return on the equipment investment will be measured using academic metrics (publications over a three-year period) and financial metrics (external grants). Supporting letters from three research collaborators (Dr. Robert McGovern, Dr. Paolo Pianosi and Dr. Nichole Morris) and from the Minnesota Robotics Institute are also included.

Transforming Precision Radiation Research through the Small Animal Radiation Research Platform (SARRP)

Lindsey Sloan, Department of Radiation Oncology, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

Small animal models of cancer are routinely used to study anti-cancer therapy response, thus preclinical radiation research demands that precise and accurate radiation treatment is delivered. Current preclinical radiation research has been hampered by the absence of a small animal image-guided radiotherapy system capable of precise treatments to small, non-superficial sites. However, the sophisticated and reliable small animal radiation research platform (SARRP) is now available with advanced anatomic and biologic imaging allowing state-of-the-art precision radiation delivery. This unit will complement the existing strong clinical (human and veterinary) radiation research programs by permitting delivery of the same treatment protocols with identical precision and accuracy as in human patients. This is currently not possible with the existing resources at the University. Moreover, the unit permits expedited workflows, minimizing immobilization/anesthesia time to decrease stress for the animals while providing fast target localization and treatment. We are requesting funds for the SARRP unit, which can be upgraded over time, as well as required service for the initial two years after purchase. The SARRP not only advances the University’s and Cancer Center’s research missions but also increases likelihood of competitive NIH funding for any research involving radiation for preclinical small animal cancer models.

TSQ Quantis Plus Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer

Natalia Tretyakova, Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy
Matching funds: Academic Clinical Affairs; College of Pharmacy

We are requesting matching funds to purchase a TSQ Quantis mass spectrometer that will be affiliated with the University of Minnesota Epigenetic Consortium. TSQ Quantis will replace the TSQ Quantiva mass spectrometer that had suffered a power failure and was irreversibly damaged last summer. The new instrument will be dedicated to quantitative analyses of epigenetic DNA and protein marks as part of NIH funded work conducted by Epigenetics Consortium members and collaborators at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the Hormel Institute, and the Mayo Clinic, as well as external collaborators. The availability of this instrument with maintain and expand our analytical capabilities and support studies funded by many NIH grants.