February 16, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 10

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    Consortium to receive Searle Funds to aid research efforts in biomedicine

    The Chicago Biomedical Consortium, a collaboration of the University, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago has received a grant of $5 million from the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust.

    The grant, the first of a planned five-year donation of $5 million per year, is designed to support and stimulate innovative multi-institutional collaborations in research and education that will enable the Chicago area to become a leader in the biomedical sciences.

    The program will be reviewed in its fourth year. If it progresses as planned, the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust may provide an additional $25 million for a five-year extension of the program, bringing the 10-year total to $50 million.

    The consortium represents a new avenue for collaborative interactions among researchers and institutional leaders from the three universities. Beyond its expected scientific yields, the Chicago Biomedical Consortium will stimulate the creation of new centers and programs, produce intellectual excitement to attract top faculty and students in the biomedical sciences and help retain them, and create innovative collective resources and essential core research facilities.

    During the next five years, all biomedical science researchers in the Chicago area stand to benefit from the consortium by having access to its resources, infrastructure and educational opportunities. For example, one resource—available to anyone, including physicians, scientists and industry—will be a database of information about proteins as discoveries occur.

    “The Searle Consultants are delighted to honor the legacy of John G. Searle in such a meaningful way,” said Nancy Searle, a consultant to The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. “The CBC has great potential for the scientific community of Chicago, as well as residents of the Chicago area and beyond, as the benefits from medical advances are realized for patient care.”

    The consortium focuses on the emerging field of systems biology, which is the study of protein networks, cells, tissues, entire organisms and other biological systems as integrated “wholes.” The consortium initially is concentrating on the technologies of proteomics (the study of proteins and their functions) and informatics (the application of computers and other technology to analyze large amounts of data).

    “One of our goals is to harness the power of advanced computational techniques in the search for solutions to our most pressing biomedical problems,” said Jonathan Silverstein, Assistant Professor in Surgery and Director of the University Hospitals’ Center for Clinical Information and the University’s consortium liaison.

    “There is no other way to effectively sift through the vast and growing volume of biological data and use the information among complex teams to create new knowledge.”

    The key to understanding human biological functions, both normal and abnormal, lies in the study of the complex interactions that occur among proteins in response to each other and to their environment. The basic science discoveries that emerge from the consortium’s research partnerships will speed the breakthroughs and insights necessary for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of complex diseases, including cancer, heart disease, immune system disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

    The Chicago Biomedical Consortium, established in 2002 by scientists at the three universities, already enables collaborative and interdisciplinary research that is beyond the range of a single institution. Biologists are working with physicists, chemists and computer scientists to create larger multi-laboratory networks for exploring questions related to systems biology.

    “This unique and generous grant from The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust is just the latest example of the Searle family’s philanthropic commitment to the Chicago area and to biomedical research,” said President Randel. “With it, our three universities will collaborate even more closely on large-scale projects and help establish the Chicago region as an undisputed leader in the biomedical sciences.”