COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri System has closed its $10 million medical research institute as part of an effort to cut costs.

The decision to close the International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine will affect 17 full-time and part-time employees through layoffs and contract non-renewals, university spokesman Christian Basi told the Columbia Missourian (http://bit.ly/2vxVf4L ) in an email.

The institute was closed June 30 because of its significant operating expenses and its lack of grant funding in recent years, Basi said.

The university broke ground on the institute in 2008. The institute studied how to apply nanotechnology to fighting diseases.

Frederick Hawthorne had been the director of the institute since it opened. He used nanotechnology to manipulate boron to try to find a way to combat cancer, arthritis and other illnesses. He was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The university expects to save about $1.5 million annually with the institute's closing. Basi said the building will likely be used as a research facility and that teams studying biomedical innovations and disease therapeutics will be in the facility next semester.

The school is still recovering from student protests in fall 2015 over the administration's handling of racial issues and the subsequent resignations of the system president and chancellor of the Columbia campus. Freshman enrollment subsequently dropped.

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Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com