Sixteen advances in research and innovation in 2016

UChicago scientists and entrepreneurs advanced game-changing research platforms, projects and companies

2016 in science
Large scientific and innovative advances this year include (clockwise from top left): Array of Things, Genomic Data Commons, The Microbiome Center and a partnership with AbbVie.
University Communications

2016 brought us the launch of several research-based startups, the invention of a new diamond-like coating, the deployment of data-collection nodes across Chicago and a next-generation platform for cancer research. Before getting too deep into the new year, here are 16 highlights in research and innovation at UChicago in 2016:

The Genomic Data Commons publicly launched at UChicago, enabling unprecedented data access, analysis and sharing for cancer research. The next-generation platform centralizes, standardizes and harmonizes genomic and clinical data, opening the door to discoveries for this complex set of diseases. Read more.

The Array of Things project installed its first 50 nodes across Chicago, which will yield data on pollution, traffic, weather and more. The partnership between UChicago, Argonne National Laboratory and the city of Chicago provides data that can help city officials address urban challenges. Read more.

UChicago issued its first license through UCGo! Startup License to spinout RiMO Theraputics, a nanopharmaceutical company. The program, which is run through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, provides a standardized license agreement to increase entrepreneurship at the University. Read more.

An interdisciplinary team including UChicago researchers found that growing up on an Amish farm, which offers close contact with livestock and a non-mechanized lifestyle, protects children against asthma by reprogramming their immune cells. Read more.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory sent the first 50-MeV electron beam through the photoinjector of its Accelerator Science and Technology facility, achieving a major design goal for the facility and marking the beginning of a new accelerator science program at the lab. Read more.

The Microbiome Center launched, bringing together efforts at UChicago, Argonne and the Marine Biological Laboratory to understand the identity and function of microbes across environments. Microbial communities—bacteria, viruses and fungi—affect every ecosystem on earth, from human bodies to oceans. Read more.

Startup Electrochaea announced that its first commercial-scale plant will be built in Hungary. The technology developed at UChicago uses a microorganism to convert electricity into methane gas, addressing the intermittent nature of power produced from renewal sources such as wind and solar. Read more.

Scientists at Argonne invented a diamond-like coating that heals itself as it’s worn away. The new coating, which rebuilds itself as soon as it begins to break down, could protect engine parts—and more—for much longer durations. Read more.

UChicago and global biopharma company AbbVie joined forces in the fight to cure cancer, agreeing to embark on a five-year collaboration designed to speed up the pace of medical discovery and advancement in cancer research. Read more.

The effects of climate change will likely cause smaller but stronger storms in the United States, according to a new framework for modeling storm behavior developed at UChicago and Argonne. Read more.

A new Intel/Cray machine called Theta will be a stepping-stone to get code and systems up to speed for Argonne’s next supercomputer, Aurora, a 200-petaflop giant due in 2018. Read more.

A UChicago study showed how sleep loss initiates overeating, poor food choices and weight gain by amplifying blood levels of a chemical signal that enhances the joy of eating—particularly the guilty pleasures gained from sweet, salty or high-fat snack foods. It mimics the marijuana “munchies.” Read more.

Fermilab began testing the first of 17 superconducting accelerator cryomodules that the lab is building for a major upgrade of the LCLS, the world’s first hard-X-ray free-electron laser. The more powerful LCLS-II will be used for a variety of experiments in physics, chemistry, biology and medicine. Read more.

Drug development company ClostraBio launched to harness protective bacteria and the substances they produce in the complex microbiome of the gut. The company, developed from research done at UChicago, is focusing on keeping the gut’s lining healthy and creating a barrier that stops allergens from entering the bloodstream and inducing an immune response. Read more.

Scientists at UChicago using novel gene-editing technology showed that the same embryonic cells that make fin rays in fish play a central role in forming the fingers and toes of four-legged creatures. The discovery sheds light on how our early ancestors left the water and moved onto land. Read more.

The NOvA collaboration at Fermilab announced the results of their latest measurements of neutrino oscillations. The result indicates that the flavor and mass correlation of neutrinos may be more complex than previously thought. Read more.