UC Berkeley faculty plan to launch Advanced Bioimaging Center in 2020

Maya Valluru/Staff

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The Advanced Bioimaging Center, or ABC, is set to launch spring 2020 and will serve as a tool to aid research in microbiology.

The facility is being developed by faculty within the UC Berkeley Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, or MCB. Located in Barker Hall, the resources in the facility will be available to researchers from academic or nonprofit institutions, according to campus MCB assistant professor Srigokul Upadhyayula.

“We are aiming to house the cutting-edge microscopy tools and bring together the biologists, instrumentation and computational scientists together to the same place at the same time to work on challenging problems,” Upadhyayula said in an email.

The facility will have tools for improved imaging of organisms on a microscopic level.

One of the primary motivations for establishing the ABC is the eventual commercialization of the imaging technology, according to ABC co-founder and campus MCB professor Eric Betzig. He added that this technology is not readily available today and said he felt commercialization is the only way to “have a large impact.”

There is only one other similar center available: the Janelia Research Campus, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia. The Janelia Research Campus was created by Betzig and campus MCB professor Robert Tjian, who are both also involved in the creation of the ABC.

“This technology involves not only, you know, biologists; it requires physicists in imaging. It requires chemistry to prepare samples, and probably most importantly, the biggest hurdle going forward is in fact a huge amount of data that requires computational analysis,” said Doug Koshland, ABC co-founder and campus MCB professor. “Berkeley is unique from Janelia Farms because it offers expertise in all those other areas, and so I think it’s unique to the world at this point.”

Campus MCB professor Ahmet Yildiz said he foresees himself using this technology for imaging single molecules in cultured cells. Although he added that he does not plan to use the center very frequently, Yildiz expressed excitement for the facility and its potential for improving biological research techniques.

While the facility has not yet officially launched, some graduate students are currently working in the center as part of a project for MCB 205, “Modern Optical Microscopy for the Modern Biologist,” a class that Betzig co-teaches. These students simultaneously learn from the technology in the center and serve as “guinea pigs,” according to Betzig.

Most biologists don’t even know that this type of level of technology is even possible,” Tjian said. “So I think there’s a lot of learning to be done or teaching to be done. That’s part of the mission of the ABC is to introduce this technology to more and more scientists.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.