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Daniel Alexander
December 7, 2022

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has granted Professor Andrew Lee, Ph.D., in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, funding to upgrade the school’s workhorse NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) instrument. The NIH is providing approximately $600,000 towards upgrading this piece of equipment with a cryoprobe. 

A cryoprobe is an NMR probe that is cryogenically cooled resulting in a large boost in sensitivity for the instrument. The cryoprobe is becoming the standard for NMR instruments in academics and industry, allowing chemists more precision and accuracy when examining small molecules. 

“We pursued this grant because our workhorse NMR instrument in the School’s NMR facility is aging and beginning to have recurrent problems,” said Lee. “Additionally, none of the current instruments have cryoprobes, and hence the sensitivity is limited, especially for the many routine 13C (carbon) acquisitions that are needed for small molecule NMR.” 

The updated NMR instrument will provide significant support in advancing the work of the School of Pharmacy’s NMR Facility. The facility is highlighted by the existence of two centers, the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery and the UNC footprint of the Structural Genomics Consortium. These centers, along with many other researchers in and outside of the School of Pharmacy, produce large numbers of small molecules that are used in libraries or are tested for activities against a variety of disease-related targets.  

The syntheses of these molecules require extensive NMR characterization, which requires the need for high-sensitivity, automated data collection to support this work. Nearly all of the NMR work to be carried out on the to-be-upgraded spectrometer will be in support of projects targeting human diseases, either directly through efforts to modulate therapeutically relevant activities or pathways, or indirectly by developing chemical tools to be used by the international scientific community. The disease-relevant molecular systems under study are associated with cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, HIV, HCV, tuberculosis, and drug abuse. 

“The future of this NMR facility depends on gaining upgraded equipment before the current spectrometers suffer debilitating or terminal problems,” said Lee. “This new equipment will allow for more routine acquisition of 13C (carbon) NMR spectra. Most importantly, it is necessary for the continued smooth operation of the School of Pharmacy NMR Facility, which is critical for the school’s research mission.”

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