Acquisition of mass spectrometry instrument positions ASU at leading edge of technology globally

Professor Alexandra Ros awarded Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization (MALDI) instrument by National Institutes of Health

August 29, 2022

Mass spectrometry is an essential scientific tool that can be used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions of proteins and other biomolecules.

At Arizona State University, mass spectrometry is used to support biochemical and biomedical research critical for the future of our society, allowing researchers to gain an understanding of the detailed structure and mechanisms with which proteins and other biomolecules interact and fulfill important biological functions that allows them to fight maladies such as neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and infectious disease outbreaks, as well as solve our society’s future energy needs. Portrait of ASU Professor Alexandra Ros. Professor Alexandra Ros of ASU's School of Molecular Sciences was awarded a Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization (MALDI) instrument by the National Institutes of Health. Download Full Image

In 2018, ASU centralized its mass spectrometry services in a biosciences core facility (part of Knowledge Enterprise) that serves over 100 researchers throughout the university and surrounding academic and biotechnology units; the Mass Spectrometry Facility, part of the biosciences core, is housed in the Biodesign Institute.

Recently, Professor Alexandra Ros, principal investigator in ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences and faculty member in the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Applied Structural Discovery, was awarded a Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization (MALDI) instrument by the National Institutes of Health.

“We are proud of having acquired critical funding for an important analytical instrument,” Ros says. “This mass spectrometer will support the projects of ASU researchers, enable faster turnaround time on important questions, allow student training on a cutting-edge instrument and enable novel capabilities such as mass spectrometric imaging, not only for ASU, but the greater Phoenix area.”

“With the addition of the MALDI instrument, ASU will have one of the most extensive arrays of mass spectrometry instrumentation and expertise in the world,” says Professor Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences. “It is a very important and expensive analytical tool that will position us to elucidate critical innovative designs in different areas ranging from biology to nanoscience.”

MALDI is a very sensitive technique for determining the mass of proteins, peptides or polymers. Protein masses allow for protein identification. MALDI sample preparation is also relatively fast and easy.

The sample for MALDI is uniformly mixed in a large quantity of matrix. The matrix absorbs the ultraviolet light and ultimately ionizes the analytes to be assessed in the MALDI mass spectrometer.

Simultaneous measurement of all mass-to-charge ratios with time-of-flight mass spectrometry improves speed and sensitivity, ensures that no important information is lost, and makes it easier to identify analytes and interpret measurements.

The many collaborators

Other NIH and National Science Foundation grant holders from the School of Molecular Sciences include professors Nicholas Stephanopoulos, Sidney Hecht, Jeremy Mills, Ana Moore, Gary Moore, Petra Fromme and Chad Borges. Associate Professor Sara Vaiana, from the Department of Physics, as well as professors Ramon Velasquez and Diego Mastroeni from the School of Life Sciences will also be involved. Professor Todd Sandrin, who is the vice provost and dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at ASU's West campus, will also use the instrumentation. Timothy Karr, who has a doctorate in chemistry and is an expert in proteomics, is the Mass Spectrometry Facility manager.

Graphic illustrating capabilities of mass spectrometry instrument.

The MALDI instrument will support the projects of ASU researchers. Photo courtesy of Bruker manufacturer

Stephanopoulos is currently the recipient of an NIH Director's New Innovator Award synthesizing full-length proteins from DNA templates and anchoring protein-DNA conjugates to surfaces which will be significantly improved by the high resolution and speed accomplished with the new MALDI instrument.

The projects of Hecht and Mills on novel peptide constructs will be greatly enhanced. Mills will no longer need to ship his samples to external collaborators and can assure in-house training of his students on mass spectrometry.

Sandrin’s projects investigating gut microbiota are funded through prestigious awards from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Leadership Circle and Mayo Clinic Ken and Linda Morris Weight and Wellness Solutions Program.

A study of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s will also be a focus. Ros, Mastroeni, Velazquez and Fromme will direct this research. There is hope for a huge future impact on the field, as Alzheimer’s is one of the deadliest diseases in the U.S., as well as a projected major challenge for our society. This work is further well embedded in the framework of the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Center located in the Biodesign Institute.

Karr’s project on Drosophila sperm similarly will take advantage of the imaging capabilities of the instrument.

Ana and Gary Moore will strive to gain biomolecular signatures important in understanding energy conversion and photosynthesis to solve our future generation’s energy needs.

The new MALDI mass spectrometry instrument will upgrade the available mass spectrometry analysis capabilities at ASU to meet the needs of currently funded NIH, NSF and Department of Energy researchers, but will also provide a tool paving the way for the next generation of research projects facilitated through high-end mass spectrometry.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences


ASU's Michael Lynch honored with 2022 Arizona Bioscience Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement

August 29, 2022

Michael Lynch, director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University, has been awarded the 2022 Arizona Bioscience Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The award is the highest honor given by Arizona’s bioscience community and is extended to an Arizonan whose body of work has made life better for people at home and around the world. Michael Lynch, director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University, leans against a counter in a laboratory. For his pioneering work in the field of mechanisms of evolution at the gene, genomic, cellular and phenotypic levels, Michael Lynch is being honored with the 2022 Arizona Bioscience Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement. Download Full Image

Lynch will receive the award from the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) at the 2022 AZBio Awards ceremony Sept. 28, held at the Phoenix Convention Center. AZBio is the only statewide organization focused exclusively on growing Arizona’s bioscience industry.  

The AZBio Awards ceremony celebrates Arizona’s leading educators, innovators and companies. Each year, the organization honors bioindustry leaders from across the state of Arizona who represent the depth, breadth and expertise of the bioscience industry.

Lynch uncovers mechanisms of evolution at the gene, genomic, cellular and phenotypic levels, paying special attention to how mutation, random genetic drift and recombination affect evolution, using methods ranging from molecular to mathematical approaches. In addition to serving as director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution, he is also a professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences.

Lynch's pioneering research has many practical applications. These include investigations of the mechanisms influencing mutation rates and other intracellular error rates, the emergence of antibiotic resistance, organismal responses to climate change, and the development of new methods of biomass production.

He leads the world on research involving the foundational issues in evolutionary theory and explores the intricacies of cell structure and function. One of Lynch's primary objectives is to integrate evolutionary theory with cell biology, using principles from population genetics and biophysics. He is a major force in the development of neutral theories in which varying population sizes of different lineages influence mutation rates and guide the way in which genome architectures are ultimately structured.

Such research has helped expand the discipline beyond the purely adaptive explanations of genes and evolution that have dominated the field since Charles Darwin. Lynch's quantitative and theoretical insights on the mechanisms of evolution are illuminated by laboratory investigations of a range of organisms, including the microcrustacean Daphnia, the ciliate Paramecium and many diverse microbial species. To advance the emergent field of evolutionary cell biology, with major support from the National Science Foundation, Lynch and ASU colleagues Wayne Frasch, Kerry Geiler-Samerotte, Ke Hu and Jeremy Wideman recently formed the Biological Integration Institute on Mechanisms of Cellular Evolution,.

“I’m especially grateful to ASU and the Biodesign Institute in providing an optimal setting for our work and that of my colleagues. Without their generous support, this award would not have been possible,” Lynch says.

Lynch won the 2022 Genetics Society of America Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for his far-reaching and influential contributions to science. The award, one of the most prestigious in the field of genetics, is granted in honor of an individual member’s exceptional lifetime accomplishments as well as history of dedicated mentorship to fellow geneticists. The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal is only the most recent in a string of prestigious awards earned by Lynch, which includes the Lifetime Contribution Award from the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, bestowed in 2021.

Lynch is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has also served as president of the Genetics Society of America; the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution; the Society for the Study of Evolution; and the American Genetics Association. Previously, he has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, University of Oregon and Indiana University.

In addition to over 300 publications, including many highly acclaimed papers, Lynch has written a two-volume treatise on quantitative genetics with Bruce Walsh, a professor of genetics at the University of Arizona. The first volume (1998) focuses on the genetics and analysis of quantitative traits, and the second (2018) on the evolution of quantitative traits. He presented his views on the evolution of genome structure and sequences comprehensively in his 2007 book “The Origins of Genome Architecture.” He is currently extending these ideas to the cellular level in “Evolutionary Cell Biology,” expected to be published in late 2022.

Past recipients of the AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement include: 

Gordon Steere for his legacy in developing the Medtronic Tempe Campus; Roy Curtiss III, of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University for pioneering work in the fields of immunology and vaccine development; David S. Alberts, director emeritus at the Arizona Cancer Center; Raymond L. Woosley, chairman emeritus of the Critical Path Institute; George Poste, industry pioneer and founding director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University; Jeffrey Trent, head of extramural research on the Human Genome Project, founding president and director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen); Daniel D. Von Hoff, of TGen and the HonorHealth Research and Innovation Institute, a pioneer and world leader in translational medicine and in accelerating novel drug discoveries from the laboratory to cancer treatments in clinical trials; Gholam Peyman, the inventor of LASIK surgery; Marvin Slepian, medical device innovator and founding director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation, University of Arizona; Thomas M. Grogan, pioneer in the field of digital pathology and founder of Ventana Medical Systems, Inc.; and The Honorable Jane Dee Hull, the Arizona governor whose vision and commitment were instrumental in setting Arizona on the path to become a leader in health innovation.

Richard Harth

Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU