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Health & Wellness

Cryogenic-electron medical research lab opens on Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Ryan Zunner

A first-in-the-region research laboratory is now open in Buffalo’s Medical Campus, and aims to help better understand health and disease. 

The $8.1 million Cryogenic-Electron Microscopy Center at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute is the only one of its kind in upstate New York. 


Cryo-EM technology can freeze samples for study in an active state – a procedure that was vital in understanding SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Hauptman-Woodward CEO Dr. Edward Snell said the new facility has far-reaching impacts for the region.  


“This enables companies that may not have access to this technology to use it. It takes a protein, the targets that people are looking at for disease, and provides information on what they'd look like to allow for drug development,” said Dr. Snell. “It's important for academic research to promote our understanding of health and disease. And I think it's going to attract a lot of economic development within the region.”


The facility is already attracting regional and national partners. Snell said among the many projects planned for disease and drug research, cancer will become a particular target for the Cryo-EM facility. 


The Hauptman-Woodward Institute traces its roots in Buffalo back to the 1970’s. With its crystallization lab, scientists have been able to conduct in-depth research on the proteins of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID. They said the cryo-EM lab only increases their capabilities to understand diseases.

Credit Ryan Zunner / WBFO News


“Cryo because it's cold, electrons because it uses electrons, and microscopes because it sees things that are very, very small,” Dr. Snell said. “This is particularly important in the COVID-19 era, when we have an enemy that basically is invisible that we can't see. With this technology, we make the invisible visible.”


Around a quarter of the cryo labs’ $8.2 million price tag came from public dollars. Empire State Development contributed a $1.2 million grant, and the New York Power Authority funded $1 million through the sale of unused power from its Niagara Power Plant. 

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes has been a big supporter of the Cryogenic-Electron Microscopy Center, and believes it will boost the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus’ on a national-scale. 


“This will be instrumental in making our region a top destination for attracting our world's most leading scientists and innovative biotech and pharmaceutical companies,” said Peoples-Stokes. “The technology behind Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute's Cryo-Electron Microscopy Center will allow scientists to make groundbreaking medical discoveries to accelerate drug discovery and treatment of disease." 


Cryogenic-electron microscopy is an emerging technology. In 2017, advancers of the technology were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. 


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