$10 Million Medical Research Institute Closed by MU

Jul 18, 2017

COLUMBIA — The MU International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine was closed June 30 as part of the UM System's cost-cutting measures.

The institute, at 1514 Research Park Drive off Providence Road, has been on campus since 2009. The decision to close the institute was made last month, MU spokesman Christian Basi wrote in an email.

MU broke ground on the $10 million institute in 2008. The future of the building is still to be determined, but it is likely to be used as a research facility, Basi wrote.

Next semester, teams studying biomedical innovations and disease therapeutics will be in the building, Basi wrote.

The closure will affect 17 full and part-time employees through a combination of layoffs and contract non-renewals, Basi said. MU expects to save about $1.5 million annually.

Reasons for the institute’s closure included its substantial operating expenses, as well as the lack of grant funding it has received in recent years, Basi wrote.

Frederick Hawthorne, recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Science, for his work on the element boron, had been the director since 2008.

He was given the medal in 2012 by President Barack Obama and is the only MU researcher to have ever received the award, according to earlier Missourian reporting.

The institute studied nanotechnology and how to apply it to fight diseases. Nanotechnology is the manipulating of matter on a tiny scale, less than 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter or .000000001 meter.

Hawthorne used the technology to manipulate the element boron in an attempt to combat cancer, arthritis and other illnesses.

The institute's webpage describes it as "the strongest research facility for the development of boron neutron capture therapy of cancer in the world."

Hawthorne was lured to MU from UCLA, where he had worked since 1969, in part because of the institute and the reactor it housed, which is among the best in the world for academic research, according to earlier Missourian reporting.

He is still an employee of MU at this time, though his ongoing role is unclear.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.