Center for Biomolecular Structure and Function to drive protein research with Good-to-Great Grant

To understand how a car works, it helps to disassemble it and see how its parts fit together.Award winners

And to understand how proteins work in cells, it helps to isolate and study them by themselves, says Mark Parthun, PhD, chair and professor of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Soon, researchers across disciplines at The Ohio State University will be able to do just that thanks to a new college center being developed within Dr. Parthun’s department, that is planned to launch, pending College Council approval. The Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology was recently awarded a Good-to-Great Grant from the Office of Academic Affairs. With this $1 million investment, the department plans to establish a Center for Biomolecular Structure and Function, housing state-of-the-art instrumentation that will help expand protein research across Ohio State.

The center will help researchers purify proteins from DNA constructs — isolating proteins individually — to better understand their structure and how they function. It’s the type of science that can bolster discoveries in fields like genetics and molecular biology but requires certain biochemistry expertise.

“This will allow people to understand what they’re working on at a much deeper level, resulting in high-impact research and a higher likelihood of grant funding,” Dr. Parthun says. “We’re hoping this elevates everyone’s science by providing access to protein structure-function-type experiments.”

Developing this deeper understanding of protein structures can also help researchers design targeted drugs for diseases like cancer or neurological disorders.

The Good-to-Great Grants Program provides strategic investments for up to five years to university units committed to ascending to new heights. The Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology’s proposal was one of nine selected from nearly 60 submissions across Ohio State.

“This initiative provided a huge opportunity and got everyone thinking bigger,” Dr. Parthun says. “People start using their imagination to think, ‘What could we do with these kinds of resources?’”

The proposal for the new center and its selection for a Good-to-Great Grant speaks to the collaborative spirit at Ohio State, says Carol R. Bradford, MD, MS, FACS, dean of the Ohio State College of Medicine and vice president for Health Sciences at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

“The new Center for Biomolecular Structure and Function will foster interdisciplinary connections and drive groundbreaking discoveries within the College of Medicine and beyond,” Dr. Bradford says.

The department’s proposal came together through the work of Dr. Parthun; Charles Bell, PhD, associate professor; Tianmin Fu, PhD, assistant professor; Aaron Goldman, PhD, assistant professor; Michael Kearse, PhD, assistant professor; Wen Tang, PhD, assistant professor; and Diana Ocean, MPH, department administrator.

In the coming weeks, the team will identify space and acquire incubators, centrifuges, a chromatography platform and other equipment needed for the new center, then proceed with trial experiments and fine-tuning, Dr. Parthun says.

“Our faculty and staff did a phenomenal job as we considered ideas and developed our proposal,” Dr. Parthun says. “We are excited for the work ahead.”