The National Center for Bio-NMR Data Processing and Analysis will open at UConn Health in December. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

The National Center for Bio-NMR Data Processing and Analysis will open at UConn Health in December. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

UConn Health is establishing a national data processing and analysis center for a powerful research tool, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). NMR technology allows researchers to analyze biological molecules at the atomic level, and is used in scientific research, medicine, and industry.

“UConn Health is ideally suited for this type of prestigious national center,” says UConn Vice President for Research Jeffrey Seemann. “It builds on substantial investments made by the University in network infrastructure, and allows investigators from UConn and across the U.S. access to high performance tools to drive technology development and research breakthroughs.”

NMR spectroscopy is used by chemists and biochemists to investigate the properties of organic molecules. It has biomedical applications in structural biology, diagnostics, drug discovery and metabolomics, which is the study of the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes leave behind.

An abundance of powerful computer programs for rapid data collection, sensitive and high-resolution signal processing, and analyzing complex spectra have advanced NMR capabilities in recent years. However, these advances present new challenges.

“Due to the complexity of data processing needed for bio-NMR, dozens of separate software packages from different sources are sometimes necessary. We’re building the ‘app store’ for bio-NMR software – and all that software is free,” says Jeffrey Hoch, director of the Gregory P. Mullen NMR Structural Biology Facility at UConn Health and head of the new National Bio-NMR Center. “The Center ensures that different packages function correctly together and that software remains viable long after development.”

The new Center and its main feature, “NMRbox,” provide software support for hundreds of NMR programs used in biomedical research, such as drug discovery and structural biology. Supporting software from hundreds of academic and commercial developers ensures that current research studies can be completed and reproduced in the future.

Awarded $6.4 million in grant funding from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Center will provide U.S. investigators access to a single, downloadable package through a cloud-based platform. UConn Health and University of Wisconsin investigators will collaborate to operate the national center.

The National Center for Bio-NMR Data Processing and Analysis is set to launch in December and will be housed at UConn Health’s Farmington campus. UConn Health is home to the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine and John Dempsey Hospital, as well as a thriving research enterprise.

 -Jessica McBride