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Building biochemistry bridges

Previously scattered molecular researchers now stick together

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  • Story by Chris Blose
  • Published: Feb. 20, 2008
Mizzou¿s biochemistry addition to Schweitzer Hall

The bridge connecting Schweitzer Hall to Schlundt Annex, based on a design concept nearly 60 years old, is part of new construction and renovation for biochemistry. Photo courtesy of MU School of Medicine.

The researchers in the new labs and offices of Mizzou’s biochemistry addition to Schweitzer Hall have a couple of things in common.

First, they all are performing research related to human health and disease. Sue Deutscher and Tom Quinn, for example, work on early detection methods for breast cancer. Grace Sun does breakthrough work on identifying the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Other researchers tackle cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

The second thing they all have in common now is one roof over their heads. The Department of Biochemistry has joint affiliations with the School of Medicine and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR), and its researchers have been scattered for many years. But the ribbon was cut on the new addition on Feb. 18, and people have been working together there for about a month.

“Now we’re at the north end of a life sciences corridor on campus,” says Gerald Hazelbauer, chair of biochemistry. The new facilities on College Avenue seamlessly add onto Schweitzer Hall, built in 1912 in the white-limestone part of campus. The $10 million construction and renovation moves the entire spectrum of biochemistry researchers near colleagues in the agricultural and physical sciences as well as interdisciplinary teams in the Bond Life Sciences Center. It adds seven new high-tech labs for researchers, plus a bridge to Schlundt Annex that connects the biochemistry buildings and offers lounge space — something increasingly rare as space-strapped departments add labs in every nook and cranny available.

Home for a rare machine

The Schweitzer addition offers a new home for something else, too — a $2.3 million high-powered nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR), only the second of its generation in the U.S. and the only one in Missouri.

“NMRs are basically MRIs for molecules,” Hazelbauer says. “You see molecules in three dimensions and view their interactions. Understanding these interactions is crucial to understanding health and disease.”

Mizzou researchers such as Steven Van Doren — who studies the protein-protein interaction in inflammatory diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis — will use this rare machine, but so will researchers statewide.

To Hazelbauer, a key feature of the new structure is the spirit of cooperation that made it possible. Hazelbauer credits Dean of Medicine William Crist and Dean of CAFNR Thomas Payne for their open-mindedness.

“At many universities around the country,” he says, “it would be very unusual for dollars that a dean of medicine generated to be used to extend and connect two agriculture buildings, and for a dean of agriculture to allow the space to be used for a medicine-financed structure. However, at MU our administrators are much more interested in the greater good than just their 'territory.' Our building is just the latest example.”

Read more in:  Health & MedicineAgriculture & the EnvironmentScience & Technology

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012