About the Institute

Established by Northwestern University in 2004, the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute (CLP) fosters the transdisciplinary collaborations among physical and life scientists and clinicians that are required to address the complexity of the “big questions” underlying human health and disease.  The Institute’s faculty members are renowned for team-based, multidisciplinary approaches to biomedical research.   The Institute integrates and promotes the growth of multiple cutting-edge university centers that advance transdisciplinary research.  

A Unique Ecosystem

CLP has created a robust ecosystem for basic and translational research that transcends disciplinary boundaries.  This ecosystem is built upon a custom designed physical environment for transdisciplinary research in the Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics, which functions as a nexus for interaction and collaboration between the physical, engineering and life science researchers. 

Translation of Discoveries from the Bench to the Bedside

A critical component of this ecosystem is the capacity to move discoveries from the laboratory bench into hands of society.  The Institute provides researchers with the tools needed to translate their discoveries through its Entrepreneur-in-Residence program that bridges the academic and commercial environments. The success of this novel program has led to it being copied by leading institutions across the country.  Innovative technologies produced by CLP faculty have garnered investments of almost $1 billion in 25 CLP faculty-derived companies and licensed technologies.

Transdisciplinary Education and Training

This environment nurtures the next wave of transdisciplinary researchers through multiple training and fellowship mechanisms that build upon the unique aspects of the Institute’s research programs and facilities.  Philanthropic contributions have enabled the Institute to fund a vibrant undergraduate research program and provide postdoctoral fellowships to scientists and physician-researchers pursuing transdisciplinary biomedical research.  The Institute was recently awarded a prestigious five year NIH training grant to support an innovative new graduate student training program at the interface of chemistry and biology. 

Collaborative Transdisciplinary Research

The ethos of collaboration that underlies the Institute has led to tight intercalation with Northwestern’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center to foster collaboration between clinicians and basic scientists.  These efforts have given rise to an NCI-funded Physical Science-Oncology Centers.   The $9M Center partners physical scientists with cancer biologists to develop novel approaches to fundamental questions regarding chromatin structure in cancer cells.

The Institute promotes high value research at the juncture of multiple disciplines through a philanthropy-funded pilot project program, Cornew Innovation Fund, that enables tenure-track faculty to test out new ideas and to develop the preliminary data needed to obtain federal funding of potentially high risk research projects.   This pilot project program has not only led to new federal funding but has led to the development of a new class of therapeutics for treating Alzheimer’s disease, new surgical glues modeled on the properties of mussel attachment filaments, and surprising new insights into the earliest stages of fertilization and embryonic development.