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Maryland to get giant magnet to aid disease care

The University of Maryland School of Medicine has won a $7.9 million federal grant to acquire a giant magnet that will aid in development of new agents to treat cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

Acquiring the two-story, eight-ton spectrometer that houses the superconducting 950 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance magnet was proposed by the University of Maryland, Baltimore and two other Maryland campuses in College Park and Baltimore County and will be shared all by three.

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Maryland will be the only academic institution to have one of these and will be only one of two facilities in the United States.

The campuses will use funds – stimulus money funneled through the National Institutes of Health – to buy and install the spectrometer in November 2011.

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Maryland officials describe how it works this way: The magnet produces a supercharged magnetic field that enables scientists to investigate the three-dimensional structure of biological molecules and study their interaction with the highest degree of resolution.

The magnet is strong enough to lift 50 cars.

"NMR spectroscopy plays a critical role in many areas of cancer research, and having a 950 MHz NMR spectrometer on our campus is a phenomenal resource for researchers at our cancer center. It will greatly enhance and speed our efforts to uncover new information about cancer and design new drugs to treat it," said Dr. Kevin J. Cullen, director of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, and professor of medicine and director of the Program in Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The magnet will be used by researchers from all over the mid-Atlantic region and it will operate 24 hour a day, seven days a week, according to David J. Weber, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the NMR core facility at UMB. He was a co-director of the grant.

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