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Illinois chosen to co-lead new CZ Biohub in Chicago

BY News Bureau
Illinois chosen to co-lead new CZ Biohub in Chicago

The CZ Biohub Chicago will develop new technologies, such as this instrumented tissue mimic, that will use embedded sensors and probes to better understand and measure human biology. / Janet Sinn-Hanlon

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been chosen to co-lead the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Chicago—a new biomedical hub—with researchers from Illinois, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The three-university team was selected as part of a competitive application process ( for a research initiative explicitly focused on measuring human biology.

“Our role in the CZ Biohub Chicago is further evidence that our university is working at the leading edge of advancing human health,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “When we unite our expertise with the collective strengths of our world-class research university partners, the horizon for innovation in health expands exponentially. The partnership between our three institutions is strong and growing, and that translates directly and rapidly into impact for the people of Illinois.”
The Chicago site, with a location yet to be determined, is the first expansion of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Network, modeled after the first CZ Biohub in San Francisco. The plan provides for state-of-the-art laboratories, meeting space, faculty-in-residence, a biofoundry and other sophisticated instrumentation. CZ Biohub Chicago will be led by Professor Shana O. Kelley of Northwestern University. Learn more in the announcement from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).
“All big breakthroughs start with basic research—and the Biohub will be a destination that unites the brightest minds with one another and with the tools and resources to achieve breakthrough science that will have real implications for human health,” said Susan Martinis, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “This will create incredible opportunities for our research community at Biohub Chicago and will have ripple effects right here in Urbana-Champaign, too.”
Biohub Chicago research will focus on solving grand scientific challenges with a goal of significant progress over the next decade. “We are excited to scale this successful model of collaborative science into a larger network by welcoming the new Biohub in Chicago,” said CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Priscilla Chan. “This institute will embark on science to embed miniaturized sensors into tissues that will allow us to understand how healthy and diseased tissues function in unprecedented detail. This might feel like science fiction today, but we think it’s realistic to achieve huge progress in the next 10 years. I look forward to the advances in science and technology that this new Biohub will spur in studying how tissues function to understand what goes wrong in disease and how to fix it.”
“The CZ Biohub Chicago gives us a springboard to unravel the design rules that govern human biology,” said Rashid Bashir (CGD/M-CELS), Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois. “This is the kind of boundary-breaking, frontier-shaking work that our scientists and engineers crave. We’re asking some tough research questions—and we’re going to prove that answers are possible.” Bashir will be on the executive leadership committee of the CZ Biohub Chicago.
Illinois’ strength in interdisciplinary collaboration was an important asset identified in the proposal. Biohub Chicago will leverage expertise and assets across disciplines and across institutions to develop engineering technologies to make precise, molecular-level measurements of biological processes and physical interactions within human tissues, with an ultimate goal of understanding and treating the inflammatory states that underlie many diseases.  
“Impactful interdisciplinary collaboration doesn’t just happen–it must be nurtured in deliberate ways,” said Gene Robinson, IGB Director. “Our campus knows how to do grand-challenge, team-science research, at scale. This will be an incredible, transformational opportunity for our research community.”    
Several Illinois faculty members will play a significant role in Biohub Chicago, including Joon Kong, Robert W. Schafer Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and leader of the Multicellular Engineered Living Systems (M-CELS) Research Theme at the IGB, and Martha Gillette (GNDP/M-CELS), Alumni Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology and Director of the Neuroscience Program. The IGB is expected to serve as the campus “satellite” for the Biohub, while many other campus units, such as the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Cancer Center at Illinois, the Holonyak Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, the Materials Research lab, the IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute and Digital Transformation Institute, will be involved with Biohub Chicago activities.
Martinis said she expects CZ Biohub Chicago research opportunities for Illinois faculty to be announced in the next several months.

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