Jun. 20—A new $8.1 million Cryo-Electron Microscopy Center recently opened at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Established to accelerate the treatment of disease, the new facility features Cryo-EM technology and will serve biotech and pharmaceutical industry scientists studying proteins for cutting-edge drug design, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
"A critical part of building New York back better than it was before is ensuring our public health system is prepared for the next pandemic," Cuomo said. "This state-of-the-art facility will help researchers develop innovative techniques and effective treatments for infectious diseases so that our medical professionals are better equipped to handle any outbreaks that may occur in the future, while also attracting other biomedical companies to the region and strengthening Western New York's position as a hub for this burgeoning industry."
"When our country was caught off-guard last year because of COVID-19, New York said never again," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "That is why we are investing in the research and development of life-saving biotech and pharmaceuticals. Buffalo has a storied legacy as a robust center of innovation, and the Center for Therapeutic Interactions at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute will help lead the way in the discovery of cutting-edge drugs to defeat the diseases of today and the future."
The project includes the installation of the cryo-electron microscope and other related scientific equipment in a space built to conform to specific equipment requirements. The new research technology is a cutting-edge, biomedical approach that enables researchers to investigate molecules and the shape of proteins critical to the research of potential drug targets.
The center will be a magnet for biomedical research-and-development companies to establish regional research hubs near the Cryo-EM facilities, with associated job creation at multiple levels. An on-site, lithium-ion battery was also installed to reduce electricity costs and divert its production from a diesel generator.
The new cryo-electron microscope enables researchers and clinicians to take a unique look at proteins, which are the basic machinery of life and the targets of pharmaceuticals. By understanding how proteins go wrong, scientists can develop the correct drugs to treat diseases caused by their malfunction.
Cryo-electron microscopes flash-freeze proteins in motion and then use a beam of electrons to visualize what those proteins look like. Three-dimensional images of proteins result, providing the detail of how they function and if needed, how to design a drug to aid that function if it has gone wrong.
Cryo-EM has accelerated discovery times from what has been decades, in some instances, to months or less. For example, it has already made a dramatic impact in the study of zika virus and Alzheimer's. The 2017 Nobel prize in chemistry was awarded for the development of this technology.
In addition, the new facility includes a sample preparation lab, an instrument operator suite, three microscope rooms and a visitor center. The Institute plans to bring on additional microscopes for the other two microscopes rooms as the center grows.
"For more than 60 years, HWI has helped generations of researchers see and understand what is happening inside the human body so they can create therapies and cures that impact and improve public health," said Dr. Edward Snell, Hauptman-Woodward's president and CEO. "Today, thanks to the faith and support of countless people and organizations in creating our new Cryo-EM center, we are expanding our ability to impact human health today and for generations to come."
Funding for the project includes a $1.2 million capital grant from the Empire State Development Corp., and $1 million from the New York Power Authority. The NYPA funding was made possible through net earnings resulting from the sale of unused hydropower generated at its Niagara power plant and stems from power proceeds legislation signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2012.
"Cryo-EM's cutting-edge tech in Western New York and across the state offers an invaluable tool to accelerate the study and treatment of disease," said Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler. "By investing in this state-of-the-art equipment in Western New York and also in Long Island, New York State is attracting the attention of the global medical research community, from healthcare and pharmaceuticals to materials science and academia."
NYPA chairman and Buffalo resident John R. Koelmel said, "The team at Hauptman-Woodward is continuing its legacy in Western New York by undertaking some very important and exciting research that will improve medical treatment across the country. We at the Power Authority are excited to support this expansion, which will leverage state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery storage to ensure a more resilient energy infrastructure, reducing costs and lessening the burden on the institute's electric assets."
The Cryo-EM center in Western New York will be an important and dynamic advancement for numerous partners. They include Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, the University of Rochester Medical Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University at Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and many other industry partners.
In addition, the center will attract intellectual and financial capital to Buffalo and will expand the growing Western New York bio-tech ecosystem. Having Cryo-EM in the region will be a magnet to recruit top research scientists, who will use this technology to make discoveries to provide cures-not for tomorrow, but for today.