The Models to Medicine (M2M) Center of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences has been established with support from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in order to foster connections between the excellent basic research programs in life sciences on campus and translational applications. One major desired outcome is the formation of stronger, mutually beneficial partnerships with industry. Other M2M goals include improving visibility and stature for campus life sciences research programs, providing outstanding training for the future workforce of the Commonwealth to join the biotech and pharma industry sectors, and enhancing the research support of the life science community on campus.
The Center features a multi-disciplinary group of faculty with complementary expertise in key research areas including chaperone networks, protein folding, bioinformatics, structural biology of lysosomal storage diseases, and characterization of protein aggregation and protein-protein interactions. Center researchers are working with biopharmaceutical companies and other partners to translate fundamental discoveries into new drug discovery strategies.
More than 50 faculty labs are working on life sciences research connected to the M2M Center. M2M researchers are discovering and validating new therapeutic targets and are working to understand key protein homeostasis mechanisms. Protein homeostasis is a rapidly emerging field that seeks to illuminate the intricate mechanisms governing the expression, function, and fate of cellular proteins that are fundamental to the operation of many biological processes. A wave of discoveries over the past decade reveals imbalances in protein homeostasis in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and many infectious diseases. M2M investments are being made in biophysical characterization of protein homeostasis networks, in compounds that modulate them and in translational animal models, and human cell lines to test them. M2M researchers also are working with colleagues at the UMass Medical School to unlock other basic biology discoveries for therapeutic translation.
Other emerging M2M areas include cellular dynamics; biology of the membrane; genetics, genomics, and epigenetics; immunology and disease; animal development and reproductive biology, and neurodegeneration.