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How a Cheek Swab Could Help Fight Lung Cancer

September 2023   Developed at CPGE and designed for use at home or in a primary care office, the novel test is based on a new paradigm for cancer detection that uses artificial intelligence-enhanced optical nanosensing of alterations in the chromatin (genome) structure of cells – changes that are associated with the earliest stages of carcinogenesis and cancer progression.

Designing Surfaces to Improve Bone Grafts

June 2023   The field of bone implants has taken incredible strides thanks to technological innovations that allow for stronger grafts that are easier to install. Yet even with these advances, there are still risks involved in such procedures. Implants can be loosened following operations, for example, which can lead to costly surgical revisions that lengthen the recovery process for patients. New research from an interdisciplinary team from Northwestern Engineering’s Center for Advanced Regenerative Engineering (CARE) and Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering (CPGE) could reduce the likelihood of these painful, expensive complications.

from Northwestern Engineering

New Research Published in ACS Central Science

June 2023   New research from a collaborative project between CPGE and the Ferguson and de Pablo labs at the University of Chicago was published on June 5, 2023 in ACS Central Science. By leveraging convolutional neural networks and molecular dynamics simulations, researchers from CPGE and the University of Chicago developed a denoising autoencoder (DAE) capable of postprocessing experimental ChromSTEM images to provide nucleosome-level resolution. Notably, no evidence for the 30 nm fiber, which has been suggested to serve as the higher-order structure of the chromatin fiber, was found.

2023 Symposium on Physical Genomics Highlights Future of Medicine

April 2023   Held April 21 at Wieboldt Hall on Northwestern’s Chicago campus, the symposium is the flagship event of the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering, which explores research in manipulating chromatin structure to treat disease and engineer living systems to overcome health and environmental challenges.

from Northwestern Engineering

CPGE Kicks Off Monthly Seminar on Physical Genomics

March 2023   The first of CPGE's new seminar series, the Monthly Seminar on Physical Genomics, will be held via Zoom Friday, March 31, 2023 from noon to 1pm CT. Dr. Susan Gasser of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research will give a lecture titled "Chromatin and Nucleosome Density: How DNA Damage Response Alters Chromatin Dynamics". Registration is free at

CPGE Awarded Major NIH Grants

February 2022   CPGE was recently awarded multiple major grants from the National Institutes of Health to establish the NU Center for Chromatin NanoImaging in Cancer (U54), and the Physical Genomics Training Program (T32).

from Northwestern Engineering

Tuesday Feb. 8: Inaugural Physical Genomics Training Program Seminar

January 2022   The inaugural Physical Genomics Training Program Seminar will take place Tuesday, February 8 at 1pm CT via Zoom. Dr. Vadim Backman, Sachs Family Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine and Director of the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering, and PGTP Administrator Dr. Jayms Peterson will provide an overview of the NIH T32 Physical Genomics Training Program and discuss some exciting developments and the groundbreaking potential of this fascinating new field of convergent science.


NIH Awards U54 Center Grant to Consortium Including MIT, Penn, CPGE

January 2022   A team of researchers from MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Center and CPGE has received a $7.8 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to join an inaugural network of centers that NIH has established, called the Metastasis Network (MetNet), to study how metastasizing tumor cells adapt to mechanical stresses. The team includes researchers from multiple institutions, including Vadim Backman of the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering at Northwestern University, who will provide imaging and nanosensing expertise for the projects at the new Center.

from MIT News


CPGE Awarded NIH T32 Training Grant in Physical Genomics

September 2021   The National Institutes of Health have awarded the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering a T32 grant to establish the Physical Genomics Training Program, the first T32 program in the United States to be focused on convergent training in the field of physical genomics.

Imaging Breakthrough Leads to Further Understanding of Genome Structure and Function

January 2021   Using a combination of breakthrough imaging techniques, new research from Northwestern Engineering sheds light on how cells – including cancerous ones – are constructed at the genomic level and how that structure affects their functionality and ability to adapt to external stressors.

from Northwestern Engineering

Jayms Peterson Named Senior Director of Operations and Outreach of the CPGE

February 2020   Vadim Backman, the Director of the Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering, has named Jayms Peterson as the new Senior Director of Operations and Outreach.

Chromatin organizes itself into 3D ‘forests’ in single cells

January 2020   Knowledge could help scientists understand chromatin’s role in cancer, other diseases.

from Northwestern Now

Disorderly DNA Helps Cancer Cells Evade Treatment

January 2020   Discovery could help researchers design new chromatin-based therapeutics.

from Northwestern Engineering

Center for Physical Genomics and Engineering Launches

June 2019   At symposium celebrating launch, researchers shared vision for burgeoning field

from Northwestern Engineering

Northwestern Awarded NSF Grants for Chromatin and Epigenetic Engineering Research

September 2018   The grants, which total $5.4 million, will provide critical support for fundamental research for professors and their collaborators across Northwestern.

from Northwestern Engineering

Sensing Cancer Before It's Too Late

March 2018   Biomedical engineer Vadim Backman develops more sensitive cancer diagnostics and more effective treatments.

from Northwestern Now

New Research Targets Cancer’s ‘Achilles’ Heel’

November 2017   For the first time, researchers control cells’ chromatin to prevent cancer from adapting to treatment.

from Northwestern Engineering

Backman and Zhang Paper Wins PNAS Cozzarelli Prize

February 2017   The award-winning paper reports for the first time that DNA blinks; the finding could lead to label-free, super-resolution nanoscopic imaging.

from Northwestern Engineering

Understanding Chromatin’s Cancer Connection

October 2016   New live-cell imaging technique allows researchers to study chromatin’s dynamic processes, including its role in cancer and disease.

from Northwestern Engineering

Early Detection to Beat Cancer

September 2016   Vadim Backman’s new screening technologies hold promise for dramatic changes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

from Northwestern Engineering

Students Crowdsource Funds for Coral Research

September 2016   Students raised funds for an experiment that aims to find if coral skeleton architecture influences bleaching susceptibility.

from Northwestern Engineering

Curing Cancer through Prevention

August 2016   Today, medicine is increasingly focused on quality of life. This talk looks at the breakthroughs, innovative practices, and new health care measures that will improve not just how long, but how well, you live.

Researchers Discover that DNA Naturally Fluoresces

August 2016   Discovery opens door for staining-free, super-resolution imaging and expands understanding of biology.

from Northwestern Engineering

Enhancing Molecular Imaging with Light

July 2016   New technology platform is able to image molecules at the nanoscale with super-resolution.

from Northwestern Engineering

Algorithm Ranks Thermotolerance of Algae

June 2016   New tool could play important role in the race to save coral reefs and in any application that relies on rankings.

from Northwestern Engineering

This Changes Everything: How Technology Is Revolutionizing Medicine

May 2016   Leading scientists present the details of exciting technology revolutions that promise earlier diagnoses, better treatments, longer lives, and new cures for age-old diseases.

Using Data to Protect Coral Reefs from Climate Change

April 2016   Northwestern researchers are the first to provide a quantitative “global index” detailing which of the world’s coral species are most susceptible to coral bleaching and most likely to die.

from Northwestern Engineering

Insights Into Coral Bleaching Could Help Preserve Reefs

April 2013   Research reveals surprising result from the study of 1893 World’s Fair corals using modern technology.

from Northwestern Now

Screening Detects Ovarian Cancer Using Neighboring Cells

April 2013   Study results could translate into a minimally invasive early detection method.

from Northwestern Now

Shining Light on Pancreatic Cancer

July 2007   Experimental techniques show promise in screening for one of the nation’s deadliest diseases.

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