Joshua Weinstein awarded Moore Inventor Fellowship to develop DNA microscopy

Joshua Weinstein, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago, has been named a Moore Inventor Fellow for 2020. This is the first Moore Inventor Fellowship for UChicago.

The Moore Foundation funds five early-career scientists per year through its Moore Inventor Fellowship program. Founded by Gordon and Betty Moore, the foundation supports inventor-scientists in the areas of scientific discovery, environmental conservation, and patient care.

Weinstein will use the funding to accelerate his lab group’s development of DNA microscopy, which will allow researchers to probe as-yet inaccessible layers of biological complexity.

“I feel very honored to join previous Moore Inventor Fellows who have contributed major innovations to my field and others,” Weinstein said. “To me, this is a vote for the crucial role played by small labs in driving technological advancement.”

Over three years, the foundation will provide $200,000 per year for direct research costs and $25,000 per year for indirect costs.

“This fellowship recognizes individuals who are creating promising new technologies and accelerating scientific progress,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering. “The work that Josh is doing with DNA microscopy is unprecedented and will greatly enhance our ability to understand cellular processes and incorporate that knowledge into the development of treatments and therapies.”

DNA is an incredibly successful medium for storing and transferring information, and for Weinstein, using DNA as “molecular machinery” to image cells is a natural application of its properties.

With DNA microscopy, Weinstein’s research group is creating a new method of imaging that rethinks the idea of a microscope, allowing for a deeper look into the inner workings of living matter.

The best light and electron microscopes cannot on their own show the dramatic differences in genomes across one person’s individual cells, for example in the brain or immune system. These differences, and how the cells fit together, contain important information that could have medical applications.

“Our goal is to use DNA microscopy to help fill that knowledge gap in order to enhance both our understanding of multicellular biology and our ability to apply this understanding to difficult control problems in medicine,” Weinstein said.