Lilly Endowment gives Indiana University $53 million for life sciences


A biologist uses her own eyes to examine those of a fruit fly. IU Bloomington is a major center for fruit fly genetics.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Adam W. Herbert announced today that the Lilly Endowment Inc. is giving IU Bloomington $53 million to broaden and intensify its life sciences research, retain its best faculty and attract new scientists. The grant is the largest IUB has ever received.

Funds will be focused on metabolomics and cytomics, emerging fields that are bringing an explosion of genetic information to bear on scientists' understanding of metabolism and the inner workings of cells. The new Indiana Metabolomics and Cytomics (METACyt) Initiative will build on the foundation of genomic and proteomic research already taking place at IUB and complements the 2001 Indiana Genomics Initiative at IU, also funded by the Lilly Endowment. As life scientists get closer to putting human genome information to use, metabolomics and cytomics research promises to answer key questions about cancer and other diseases, leading to faster diagnoses and more effective treatments.

"IU is poised to establish international intellectual leadership in these new areas of life sciences research," Herbert said. "We at IU are deeply grateful to the Lilly Endowment for recognizing the quality of our life sciences research program and investing in its bold expansion."

Lilly Endowment Vice President for Education Sara B. Cobb said, "This forward-looking initiative will significantly advance Lilly Endowment's efforts to build the intellectual capital in our state, which we believe is so vital to the future prosperity of Indiana."

The Indiana METACyt Initiative will support technology transfer derived from basic research and encourage the founding of new businesses based on initiative discoveries. Working with the IU Research & Technology Corporation, IUB life scientists will be able to bring useful laboratory discoveries to the Indiana private sector.

Scientific investigation by members of the Indiana METACyt Initiative will be focused on five areas: microbial systems, cell signaling and differentiation, molecular neurosciences, molecular evolutionary and developmental biology, and analytical technology development. Research in these areas often will be multidisciplinary, bringing together biologists, chemists, physicists, medical researchers and specialists in computer science and informatics.

An intimidating stream of raw genetic information produced by the human genome and other projects has led to increased demand for informatics and computer science experts who can bring meaning and order to the data.

The Indiana METACyt Initiative also includes Integrating Science and Technology Centers that will employ scientists and technicians who will support and collaborate with investigators by performing biochemical, functional genomics and computational cytomics analyses, as well as chemical imaging and assaying.

The Lilly Endowment grant will provide money for greenhouses, nuclear magnetic resonance equipment, facilities for the study of gene expression in mice and an expansion of IU's advanced information technology infrastructure.

A life sciences boom is already underway in Bloomington. Simon Hall, a 140,000-square-foot research and teaching facility funded by the state and members of the Simon family, is currently under construction. Life scientists, recently surveyed by The Scientist magazine, named IU one of the 10 places they'd most like to work.

"Basic research is the font of all technological and clinical advancements," said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kumble R. Subbaswamy. "This grant is like an infusion of rocket fuel into the machinery of basic life sciences research at IU. It will help keep Indiana competitive in this rapidly evolving field of global significance."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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