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Anschutz Acceleration Initiative Awardees Announced

Team-driven, groundbreaking work poised to change medicine within five years

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Written by Staff on January 15, 2024

Nine projects chosen for their promise to deliver life-changing advancements in medicine within the next three to five years were announced as the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative (AAI) winners on Jan. 10, marking the end of a selection process that began with 165 letters of intent and 56 full proposals.

Launched last June, the AAI was created with a $50 million gift from The Anschutz Foundation, a longtime philanthropic partner focused on bringing the innovative work taking place at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to the forefront of patient care.

More information about the projects and the teams driving the work is available on the AAI website.

Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and University of Colorado School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, unveiled the awardees in-person following the annual State of the School Address, and he and Chancellor Don Elliman presented the list in a subsequent email announcement.

Winning faculty represent the diverse expertise at the region’s largest academic medical campus, spanning disciplines that include oncology, dermatology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, pharmacology, dental medicine and more.

AAI awardees were selected through a scientific review process by a committee of outside experts. Projects were weighed on their ability to fulfill the AAI mission of bringing transformational therapies and protocols to the healthcare field rapidly.

Below is a list of the awardees and synopses of their projects.


Joaquin.Espinosa260Project: Immunomodulatory Therapy for Down Syndrome

PI: Joaquin Espinosa, PhD | Professor, Pharmacology & Executive Director, Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome

Espinosa and team are working to pave the way for the first immunomodulatory therapy for children with Down syndrome. Assuming positive results, their work could launch a new age of therapeutic development to improve the quality of life and extend the lifespan of millions of individuals affected by this chromosomal abnormality.



Maryam.Asgari260Project: Implementation of Personalized Skin Cancer Screening: Using Genetic and Clinical Risk Factors to Identify a High-Risk Subgroup

PI: Maryam Asgari, MD, MPH | Professor and Chair, Dermatology

Leveraging established expertise in developing skin cancer polygenic risk scores (used for stratification and prediction of disease risk), Asgari and team will test a skin cancer screening risk prediction tool that combines genetic and clinical risk factors to identify individuals at high risk for skin cancer among study participants. The results of this research are likely to impact patient care in the next five years by identifying a high-risk subgroup for which skin cancer screenings could yield clear, direct benefits, including reduction in morbidity and mortality.


Russell.Glasgow260Dan.Matlock260Project: Making Personalization the Standard Through Rapid Design, Implementation, Testing and Maintenance

Dan Matlock, MD | Professor, Geriatrics & Director, Colorado Program for Patient Centered Decisions (plaid shirt)
Russell Glasgow, PhD | Research Professor, Family Medicine & Director, ACCORDS Dissemination and Implementation Science Program (glasses)

This comprehensive patient-centered personalization program will develop patient-centered decision support tools across various clinical domains, with a strong emphasis on rapid and rigorous development, sustainable processes and equity in engagement. Initially, the team will embark on four distinct projects: primary care for patients with multiple chronic conditions; specialty care – carotid stenting decision aid; tertiary care – heart transplant decision aid; and late life care for patients with dementia.


Jeffrey.Stansbury260Project: Multimaterial 3D Print Processing of Antimicrobial and Antifungal Dental Prosthetics

PI: Jeffrey Stansbury, PhD | Senior Associate Dean for Research and Professor, Craniofacial Biology

Stansbury and team plan to enhance affordability of dentures for patients most in need, while significantly raising the clinical value and performance of dentures for denture wearers. Their goal is to bring together several already demonstrated materials-based technologies that, when combined and used with innovative printing processes, will significantly advance the potential application of the field of 3D printing for dentistry.


Eduardo.Davila260Project: MyD88 Platform for Enhancing Cellular Cancer Immunotherapy

PI: Eduardo Davila, PhD | Professor, Medical Oncology

The Davila laboratory, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders, is developing a novel methodology to enhance all forms of cellular immunotherapy including a more universal form of cell therapy referred to as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy. The goal is to develop good manufacturing practices, technology and methodology to reduce production times, reduce the number of cells that need to be administered, lessen costs, and generate more effective cellular immunotherapy products.


Jayashree.Kalpathy-Cramer260Project: Oculomics as a Biomarker for Comprehensive and Non-Invasive Patient Health Assessment

PI: Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, PhD | Professor, Ophthalmology

Kalpathy-Cramer and team are developing a multidisciplinary project by bringing AI-assisted ophthalmic imaging outside of ophthalmology to improve patient health and clinical outcomes, meet quality metrics and reduce health system costs, and further advance the field of oculomics. The successful completion of this ambitious goal would make oculomics a mainstream, non-invasive and cost-effective tool for the assessment of patient health.


Valeria.Canto-Soler260Project: Retinal Transplant to Restore Vision in Patients with Macular Degeneration

PI: Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD | Associate Professor, Ophthalmology & Director, CellSight

Canto-Soler and team have developed two products to address the needs of patients with geographic atrophy (GA) – an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration or AMD. The potential impacts of these products are enormous, as approximately 2 million Americans with GA would be immediately eligible for experimental retinal transplantation to restore vision, thus having a profound effect on their quality of life.



Antonio.Jimeno260Project: Targeting Protein Translation Elongation to Treat Cancer Patients

PI: Antonio Jimeno, MD, PhD | Professor, Medical Oncology

An interdisciplinary team will target fusion proteins to treat patients with head and neck cancers. With the use of a synthetic small molecule called SVC112 that uses a new and unique mechanism of action, the team now has a clear line of sight from discovery to generate preclinical data to de-risk and ready SVC112 for the clinic.


Steven.Edmundowicz260Project: Transforming Gastrointestinal Cancer Care from Inpatient Surgery to Outpatient Endoscopy by Enabling Third Space Endoscopy

PI: Steven Edmundowicz, MD | Professor, Gastroenterology & Medical Director, Digestive Health Center

Edmundowicz and team are developing minimally invasive, highly specialized endoscopy procedures that have the potential to supplant one-third of conventional surgical gastrointestinal (GI) interventions and transform GI cancer care. They intend to bridge the gap between conventional tools and advanced procedures by using the AncoraTM platform that leverages CU’s patented Pillar balloon in an interventional overtube to reduce dependence on expert free-hand skill and enable more repeatable and predictable procedures.

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