Research programs at the Bond LSC
The Bond Life Sciences Center at MU is all about the synergy of teamwork — with internationally recognized research teams working 24/7 to solve problems related to the human, natural and managed biological systems that underlie our quality of life — and translating that understanding into social and economic impact.
Our innovative culture enables our 41 faculty investigators from 12 academic units to form unique collaborations rarely seen on college campuses. Engineers are working with cancer biologists, plant scientists with biomedical researchers, lab researchers with field biologists, and information technology experts with biologists of many stripes. The discoveries of MU researchers are saving lives, saving money and making everyday life better for Missourians and people in all corners of the world.
Unlike some research centers, the Bond LSC does not have a single scientific theme. Our goal is to allow novel research opportunities and directions to arise from interactions among our talented and diverse scientists. The focus is on addressing new questions in news ways using interdisciplinary approaches. Interactions that cross disciplinary and system boundaries produce unique insights that are unlikely to occur in the confines of more traditional research settings. The Bond LSC environment is uniquely supportive of investigators working outside the box with others.
Three distinct research clusters have formed among Bond Center investigators to date, including a group focused on virology and molecular therapies, another featuring a variety of approaches in studying neuromuscular function and disease, and another representing a microcosm of MU’s internationally known plant science research. A fourth emerging cluster is bringing together bioengineers, plant and biomedical scientists with the development of various high-tech sensors as a commonality. And the Bond Center has four computational scientists whose interests include bioinformatics and biostatistics, pattern recognition, predictive models of protein structure and protein-protein interactions, and bioinformatics algorithms for systems biology. These informatics specialists partner with researchers across the life sciences spectrum, providing a critical area of expertise necessary in modern scientific research.
In a sense the Bond LSC exists to demonstrate that a scientific product can be greater than the sum of the individual investigators, if they are encouraged to work together across boundaries in a world-class environment. That is our goal, and it will be the measure of our success.
Virology and Molecular Therapies Program
Viruses not only cause some of the worst human diseases, they do the same in plants and animals. That makes them major threats not only to human life but to agriculture and our food supply. At the same time, the stealthy way viruses interact with their hosts makes them ideal tools for curing genetic diseases. And they are excellent pest control agents as well. It is clear that understanding how viruses work can have huge impacts in multiple areas that affect our quality of life. Bond Life Science Center virologists and their colleagues are uniquely suited for producing new knowledge about viruses and their interactions with hosts that can be used to stop viral disease and develop helpful viruses for gene therapy. The intensely collaborative approach of the Bond LSC promotes cooperation among outstanding virologists working in human, animal, and plant systems, focusing on critical processes seen in all virus-infected plant and animal cells.
Our virologists also gain access to novel tools by interacting with a wide range of experts in diverse research areas. They employ the latest imaging, computational, genomic and analytical methods to fully understand how viruses exploit their hosts. This approach has already produced anti-HIV drugs thousands of times more powerful than existing treatments, novel approaches to preventing and treating human and animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth, and medicinal plant remedies that complement modern medicine. At the same time, new means of correcting genetic defects using viruses as therapies are in development.
Interdisciplinary Neuromuscular Research Program
The simple acts of walking, breathing, or talking with a friend are not possible for people with damaged or aged neuromuscular systems, which connect the brain to muscles. Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Sclerosis (ALS), Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Menkes Disease are a few of the conditions caused by damage to this critical system. Degenerative neuromuscular diseases strike especially hard at juvenile victims and are associated with aging and traumatic injury as well. There are few therapies that restore neuromuscular function and enable a normal life. Understanding and treating the loss of muscular control during aging, in response to trauma, and in disease requires insights from multiple systems and approaches.
The intensely collaborative approach of the Bond LSC brings together outstanding neuromuscular disease researchers who focus on unifying principles and mechanisms in more than a dozen different genetic or environmental conditions that lead to neuromuscular degeneration. They employ the latest imaging, computational, genomic and analytical methods to fully understand how nerves and muscles interact and how to keep those connections intact. Our investigators find new approaches to therapies through comparative studies that identify the commonalities among many different neurodegenerative diseases.
Plants for Our Future
Plants form the basis of all food, fiber and fuel production on our planet. How plants will cope with a future bringing rapid climate change and accelerating human demands is uncertain. All plants will surely experience increased stress, whether it be poor soil quality, altered temperatures, or attacks by pests. Bond Life Science Center plant scientists and their colleagues are uniquely suited for assessing these impacts and providing the plants and management tools needed to retain and maximize plant contributions to planet health and our quality of life. We bring together some of the world’s leading experts on plant responses to stresses, including drought, low soil nutrients, toxic pollutants, diseases and insects. The intensely collaborative approach of the Bond LSC promotes cooperation among these plant experts as well as interactions with scientists working in animal and human systems, focusing on critical responses seen in all plant and animal cells.
Our plant scientists also gain access to novel tools by interacting with a wide range of experts in diverse research areas. They employ the latest imaging, computational, genomic and analytical methods to fully understand how plants cope with their environments. This accelerates plant improvement by genetic modification as well as conventional breeding, and is producing useful management approaches such as rapid analyses of plant tissue composition, precision agriculture, new genes for pest control, and soil amendments based on signaling between plants and microbes.