Background

The New Mexico Consortium (NMC) is a non-profit corporation formed by the three New Mexico research universities to advance scientific research and education in New Mexico. NMC pursues joint initiatives with LANL in Advanced Computing, Plant Biology, Biomedical Engineering and Modeling and Analysis. These initiatives leverage the technical strengths of the partnership to achieve technical advances in support of national priorities.  We choose technical areas where the partnership, working together, has a unique competitive advantage.

NMC coordinates and leads joint program development efforts, pursues, develops and executes research and educational programs and organizes meetings ranging from workshops to international conferences, among many other activities.  The NMC currently manages over $25M in research grants and contracts. Our goal is to develop and continually improve models for pursuing collaborative research across our partner institutions. This establishes the foundation for vibrant inter-disciplinary, cross-institutional research and puts the NMC in a unique position to tackle global grand challenges.

 

The Grand Challenges

The Food Cliff

In recent years, global food consumption has surpassed production and it is predicted that we will be entering an era of permanent food crisis. Today, almost 1 billion people are undernourished and this number will only rise as global population figures are predicted to balloon to 9.1 billion by 2050.  The world will need to transform agriculture to meet the basic needs of populations vulnerable to these global trends.

NMC’s Plant Biology Initiative is working on innovations in agriculture that will improve the nutrition of food staples for populations at risk for malnutrition, empower rural African women, prevent the spread of malaria, stabilize world food supplies and economies, diversify the energy supply, mitigate climate change, and reduce political unrest. 

Understanding, Preventing, Detecting and Treating Disease

Researchers at the NMC seek to understand normal cell function and when it goes awry in diseased cells.  Advances in technology allow the NMC to integrate the infrastructure for a complete cell characterization capability in one laboratory. The collective expertise of the NMC partnership in the relevant scientific disciplines sets us apart in this highly interdisciplinary field. NMC’s Biomedical Technology and Engineering Initiative is positioned to deliver integrated infrastructure and expertise to understand, prevent, detect and treat disease at the cellular level.

Algae: New Options to Provide Food and Fuel

Algae have the potential to revolutionize biotechnology.  An algal bioreactor can be used to produce fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol generating up to 10 times more oil per acre than traditional crops. Algae is also a potential source of food, and can be useful in industrial bioprocesses ranging from bio-chemicals, to wine and beer, to biological waste treatment, to biopharmaceuticals, and beyond. The NMC integrates New Mexico’s unique statewide capabilities into interdisciplinary and cross-institutional teams uniquely poised to unlock the potential of algae.

Computing at Extreme Scales

Computing at extreme scales - millions rather than thousands of computers - pose a large number of questions that have not yet been answered. NMC's Ultra-scale Systems Research Center investigates a broad range of problems that currently limit our ability to compute at exascale, ranging from fault-tolerant scalable system services to network topology to data storage and retrieval.  The NMC's Parallel Reconfigurable Observational Environment (PRObE) provides a unique large-scale, low-level, and highly instrumentable systems research facility to the computer science research community. 

The Impact of NMC Research

Biomedical Technology and Engineering: The Characteristics of a Diseased Cell

Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, their structure, function and dynamics. Proteins are the main component of the metabolic pathways of cells. The ability to characterize proteins in a cell, and the scale at which it can be done, is often the limiting factor to understanding what went wrong at the cellular level. NMC researches biological signatures of proteins that can increase the rate at which we can characterize cell proteins 100 fold while reducing the cost.

Plant Biology and Food Security: Fighting Malnutrition

Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease, and leads to reduced physical development, mental retardation, brain damage and death. Nutrition related deficiencies are responsible for approximately 35% of global child deaths (1-2.5 million per year) and 11% of the total global disease burden.  Populations that subsist primarily on a single plant-based diet are highly susceptible to malnutrition when that food is nutritionally deficient.  Cassava is extensively cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions and is a major staple food in the developing world. Eight hundred million people globally rely on cassava as their major source of calories. Cassava is a good source of carbohydrates, but a poor source of protein and other nutrients causing malnutrition in populations using a predominantly cassava root diet. NMC Researchers develop cassava strains with improved nutritional value as part of the Gates Foundation BioCassava Program.

Plant Biology and Food Security: Empowering Smallholder Farmers and Women in Africa

Most farmers in Africa are women producing more than 75% of the region’s basic foodstuffs.  Cassava root, the staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa, decay within 3 days following harvest.  This limited storage life of cassava restricts farmers to subsistence farming since the roots cannot be taken to market and sold before they rot.  Extending the shelf life of cassava to several weeks would reduce financial losses in Nigeria alone by $2.9 billion over a 20-year period, primarily benefiting women farmers. NMC researchers have extended the shelf life of cassava from 3 to 14 days.

Plant Biology and Biofuels: Engineering Commercially Viable Feedstock for Biofuel Production

The ability to reverse engineer photosynthesis and has allowed NMC researchers to produce algae with very high lipid content. The NMC team is able to characterize energy transfer processes in photosystem II (PSII) reaction center complexes. They use recombinant DNA techniques to generate site-directed mutations in chloroplast genes encoding proteins of the PSII complex. They test models for alternate electron and energy transfer pathways among the PSII reaction center electron transfer cofactors.

Structure and Infrastructure

Leadership

The NMC is an independent non-profit corporation  managed by a board of directors composed of representatives from research offices of the three New Mexico Universities and two senior LANL managers.  Katharine Chartrand, Executive Director, oversees NMC operations and programs. NMC draws technical leadership in plant biology and biomedical engineering from across our partnership. Within each initiative, the management team organizes groups of key researchers from each institution into long term cross disciplinary efforts. NMC’s affiliated researchers are the foundation of our research capabilities.

A Unique Mission to Foster Collaborative Research

Science is increasingly collaborative; tackling problems at this scale requires cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary teams. NMC was formed to anticipate what it takes for universities and industry to work together. Our core mission is to develop, implement and continually improve models for operating collaborative research across our partner institutions.

NMC Biological Laboratories and NMC in the Los Alamos Research Park

The NMC Biological Laboratory supports synergistic cross-institutional collaboration in plant biology and bio-medical engineering. University faculty and researchers from Los Alamos and across the world collaborate in our laboratory on global challenges in food security and sustainable energy.  The vision for the laboratory is a capability that integrates infrastucture and expertise spanning multiple disciplines in order to fully characterize cell function.

The NMC maintains office space and high performance computing capabilities in the Los Alamos Research Park.

© 2016 New Mexico Consortium