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NC State, UNC Ink Research Deal

FEI Quanta 3D Dual Beam instrument in the Advanced Instrumentation Facility at NC State.

NC State and UNC–Chapel Hill have reached an agreement to make it easier and cheaper for their researchers to share specialized research facilities on both campuses.

“Agreements like this are the wave of the future,” says Jonathan Horowitz, assistant vice chancellor for research development at NC State. “With declines in grant support, federal funding and state funding, universities are always looking for ways to partner with each other so they can reduce the expense of purchasing and maintaining research equipment.”

Specialized research facilities — sometimes called shared research facilities — always cost money to use, even if you’re a researcher at the institution where the facility is housed. There’s a fee for use of the equipment, a fee for any technical support involved and an overhead fee to cover administrative costs and basic operations, such as electricity and other utilities. Shared research facilities benefit researchers by giving them access to equipment that individual laboratories can’t afford, and the university benefits from collecting fees that offset the costs of purchasing and maintaining such expensive equipment.

Overhead Fees Waived

NC State and UNC–Chapel Hill have agreed to waive the overhead portion of the fee to use shared research facilities, so that researchers from each university can take advantage of instruments and technologies at the lowest possible rates.

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Jonathan Horowitz in his lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“This is a relatively new concept, but we’re not the first ones to do it,” Horowitz says. “The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern have all partnered in a robust consortium in which they share their equipment and expertise. This trend is gathering momentum across the country, and we hope to be part of that leading edge.”

One reason for NC State and UNC–Chapel Hill to forge such an agreement is that there isn’t a lot of overlap between what their shared research facilities can do, says Horowitz, who also serves as assistant head of the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences. For instance, on Centennial Campus, the Analytical Instrumentation Facility contains specialized equipment for high-resolution analysis of materials, some of which is found in only a handful of locations around the nation. Conversely, many of Carolina’s shared research facilities are designed to serve the needs of biomedical researchers, which will be useful to many biologists and biomedical researchers at NC State.

Seminar on Gene Therapy Facility

On Thursday, April 10, a researcher from UNC–Chapel Hill will come to NC State and present a seminar on how faculty and students can take advantage of a gene therapy facility at UNC. Tal Kafri, director of the Lentivirus-shRNA Shared Research Facility, will explain the facility’s capabilities and answer questions about it. The facility specializes in the creation of virus-based delivery vehicles that can convey specific genes, or whole libraries of genes, to targeted cells. Kafri’s seminar will take place 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in Room 101 of the Research Building in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We’re hopeful that this is the beginning of something greater,” Horowitz says. “One can imagine a day when there is a regional agreement among all the universities in the Triangle to band together and enable faculty and students to use any shared resource at greatly reduced costs.”

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