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Massachusetts Life Sciences Center funding to support a Metabolomics Facility at Dana-Farber

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is awarding Dana-Farber Cancer Institute a $1.82 million grant titled, Mass Spectrometry Metabolomics Solutions for Highly Scalable Integrated OMics: Charting Metabolic Contributions to Disease Development and Therapeutic Outcomes. This award will help support a new facility at Dana-Farber that will provide cutting-edge metabolomics tools for scientists, including a unique technology for systematic application of discovery metabolomics for fast, high resolution accurate mass profiling of very large cohorts of complex biologic samples from patients and integration of such data with other “omics” data. The grant was announced as the Baker-Polito Administration and the MLSC awarded $18 million in life sciences capital funding to support research infrastructure, data science, and drug delivery projects in Massachusetts (link to MLSC release). Nine projects received funding to support R&D, innovation in addressing challenges in therapeutic delivery and unlocking potential of data science to answer pressing life sciences questions.

Metabolomics data can provide novel insights into metabolic control of cell physiology, disease processes or response to therapy that can have profound impact on basic understanding and clinical treatment of disease. The highly scalable metabolomics capabilities gathered within this new facility through an innovative academia-industry partnership between Dana-Farber and General Metabolics, LLC, a Boston-based metabolomics company, have historically been available predominantly within biotech laboratories and used to their maximum in such settings. 

“This critical investment from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center will allow Dana-Farber to expand its use of Metabolomics, an exciting technology that can enhance both our understanding of cancer biology as well as therapeutic outcomes,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, President and CEO, Dana-Farber.

“The Life Sciences Center continues to catalyze transformative growth in jobs, funding, and infrastructure that is driving scientific discovery and producing therapies and other products that are improving patients’ lives around the world,” said Massachusetts Housing & Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as Co-Chair of the MLSC Board of Directors. “The Baker-Polito Administration remains committed to providing key investments to maintain the upward trajectory of the life sciences sector in Massachusetts as a mechanism for workforce and economic development, and scientific advancement.”

The capabilities in this new facility will help advance basic and translational metabolic science relevant to cancer and other pathologies such as obesity, diabetes, neurologic disorders and inborn errors of metabolism. Notably, with use of this new technology scientists can identify targetable metabolic vulnerabilities in tumors, which may be leveraged to devise combination therapies that take advantage of synthetic lethal relationships in tumor cells for maximizing therapeutic windows. Metabolomics data can also lead to successful identification of metabolites as biomarkers relevant for disease management.

“This high-quality technology resource will not only enhance the existing metabolism research at DFCI but also provide novel opportunities for discovery of disease targets and precision medicine strategies. It will be a conduit for bench-to-bedside and back to bench research, fostering biomedical breakthroughs,” said Nika Danial, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine and the DFCI faculty member who led efforts to create and implement plans for establishing this new state-of-the-art facility. This technology is also vital for Dana-Farber’s mission in training the next generation of scientists, especially those in the T32 training program in Cancer Chemical Biology and Metabolism, co-directed by Nika Danial and Tom Roberts at Dana-Farber.

Access to the equipment within this facility will be shared across the academic research community with primary users coming from Dana-Farber, the Longwood Medical Area and other academic institutions throughout the Commonwealth. Any researcher in New England and beyond may request to submit samples for analysis. It is also expected that this facility will be appealing to patient advocacy groups seeking cutting edge research relevant for their client populations and could spur treatment advances.

“Mass Spectrometric analysis of metabolites, metabolomics, has now become a very important area in cancer biology and biomedical research generally. This facility will encourage applications of this technology at the highest levels, with benefits to a broad swath of DFCI Investigators. We are thankful for this grant,” said Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Professor of Cell Biology and Medicine and Director of the Center for Metabolism and Chronic Disease at Dana-Farber.

The new Metabolomics facility will fill an unmet technology and scientific need within the research community in a multi-institutional manner, and in so doing, will accelerate remedies to unmet medical needs in cancer and multiple other diseases.

Posted on July 09, 2021

  • Cancer Biology
  • Nika Danial, PhD

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Nika Danial, PhD