Keck Foundation to fund interdisciplinary research in brain disease, damage

Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
217-333-5802; jebarlow@uiuc.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. A pioneering interdisciplinary research initiative that will combine neuroscience, chemistry and materials science in an effort to find new treatments for brain diseases and damage is being launched at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a $1.2 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

The grant supports a project called Neural Repair in the Microcircuit Domain, which is part of a Cross Campus Initiative in PharmaEngineering™. The goal is to develop tools to understand and correct problems in brain circuitry such as those underlying mental retardation, degenerative diseases and neurochemical imbalances often associated with depression-related illnesses.

The neural repair grant brings together scientists from three departments:

Jonathan V. Sweedler, a professor of chemistry and head of the Biotechnology Center; Martha U. Gillette, professor and head of cell and structural biology; and Ralph G. Nuzzo, professor of chemistry and director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory.

The research will develop a fresh approach to the biological and chemical studies of the complex interaction of neurons in the brains, initially focusing on those found in giant mollusks, rats and mice, with the ultimate goal of identifying natural chemical signatures to restore proper wiring and functioning in malfunctioning brains.

The W.M. Keck Foundation, based in Los Angeles, is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Established in 1954 by William Myron Keck, the founder of Superior Oil Co., the foundation provides funds primarily in the areas of medical research, science and engineering.

1/13/04
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Jonathan Sweedler
Martha Gillette
Ralph Nuzzo