Northwestern will lead new Center for Chemical Innovation specializing in biocatalysis


Daily file photo by Ava Mandoli

Northwestern Technological Institute. The National Science Foundation selected Northwestern to lead a new Center for Chemical Innovation.

Pavan Acharya, Assistant Campus Editor

The National Science Foundation selected Northwestern to lead a new Center for Chemical Innovation, the University announced Thursday.

The Center for Chemoenzymatic Synthesis, led by chemistry Prof. Karl Scheidt, will use biocatalysis found in nature to develop new processes for practical developments, including the creation of new medicines. Biocatalysis is the study of nature’s ability to use enzymes — proteins that control and catalyze chemical reactions — to perform chemical conversions of organic compounds.

“Northwestern is the ideal place to launch this center given its tremendous strengths in chemistry and connected areas of science and engineering,” Scheidt said in a news release. “Advances we make in this area of chemoenzymatic synthesis will provide a solid scientific foundation for addressing the production challenges of new medicines and materials in the 21st century.”

The center will also train scientists to integrate biocatalysis and chemical synthesis with enzymes into research. Scientists from other universities, including the University of California, Berkeley; University of Michigan and Yale University have already joined the center.

NU will receive $1.8 million in funding over three years for the center’s first phase. After that, the center will seek $4 million in funding over five years, Scheidt said.

NSF Chemistry Division Director Dave Berkowitz said the new center will help create a new understanding of chemical and biological processes that have evolved through natural selection.

“This is a rich and promising field, and we look forward to seeing what comes forward from this highly collaborative team,” Berkowitz said in the release.

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Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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