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Catalyzing a Culture of Collaboration

Latest AB Nexus grants advance innovative intercampus research projects

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Written by Megan Lane on June 6, 2022
What You Need To Know

The AB Nexus collaboration between CU Anschutz and CU Boulder is yielding impressive results. AB Nexus teams have garnered more than $4 million in external funding and published more than a dozen peer-reviewed research studies on topics that range from microplastics to sepsis.

Today, the AB Nexus program announced its fourth round of grant awards to faculty from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Boulder. From advancing new cancer and diabetes treatments to developing AI tools to diagnose dementia, the selected teams bring together experts from multiple disciplines to advance basic science and translational research that improves human health and well-being.

Supported by the University of Colorado President’s Initiative, AB Nexus provides funding to spur new intercampus collaborations and innovations. Since launching just over two years ago, the initiative has awarded more than $2 million in grant funding.

We are excited to recognize another outstanding group of research teams in their collaborative endeavors to advance new discoveries in health science,” said Thomas Flaig, MD, vice chancellor for research at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “When we strengthen opportunities for CU Anschutz and CU Boulder faculty to work together, we can have a far greater impact in addressing pressing health issues.”

By fostering interdisciplinary partnerships among scientists, engineers and physicians from a diverse range of fields, AB Nexus has catalyzed a new culture of collaboration between CU Boulder and CU Anschutz. This enhanced campus connectivity has already expanded CU’s collective research enterprise while creating new funding opportunities. Teams funded by AB Nexus have already garnered more than $4 million in external funding and published more than a dozen peer-reviewed research studies on topics that range from microplastics to sepsis.

“What continues to impress me about the AB Nexus initiative is the enthusiasm and creativity of researchers at both campuses,” said Massimo Ruzzene, acting vice chancellor for research and innovation at CU Boulder. “Our researchers are eager to work together across disciplines and campuses to find solutions to some of the most significant problems we face. It is clear that AB Nexus is paving the way for these new solutions and is instrumental to fostering existing and new collaborations.”

The latest round of AB Nexus awards provides $500,000 across seven teams – five new projects and two that expand upon existing collaborations. These funds include $87,500 from the University of Colorado Cancer Center to co-sponsor cancer-related research projects.

Screening tools for dementia

Among the recent awardees is a new research project led by Peter Foltz, PhD, a research professor with the Institute for Cognitive Science at CU Boulder, and Peter Pressman, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (CU Anschutz). Together, they are developing trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI) tools to improve the diagnosis of dementia and boost clinician acceptance of these new screening methods.


While dementia is common among older adults, the screening process can be time consuming, expensive and often results in unequal access to services. Many elderly people with memory concerns do not receive evaluation and diagnosis until neurodegeneration has progressed markedly.

Recognizing the need for earlier, more sensitive diagnostic tools that promote healthcare equity and inclusiveness, this research team has developed an AI-based screening software that could lead to earlier detection of dementia. The tool analyzes the way patients speak in conversation to create a low-cost assessment of neurological functioning. By building on intercampus strengths in AI, machine learning, language processing, neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychological assessment, this AB Nexus award will lay the foundation for future longitudinal studies on improved dementia screening and more timely interventions.


AB Nexus by the Numbers*

  • 30 research teams awarded grants
  • $2M in total seed funding
  •  35+ different areas/departments represented
  •  $4M+ in external funding awarded
  • 12+ published studies by awardees

*Since initiative began in December 2020

Spring 2022 Awardees

Listed in alphabetical order, by title
  • Developing trustworthy Artificial Intelligence for Language-Based Assessment of Neurodegenerative Disorders: Enabling Early Detection of Cognitive Decline with Inexpensive, Scalable Technologies
    Peter S. Pressman, MD, (Department of Neurology), CU Anschutz, and Peter W. Foltz, PhD, (Institute for Cognitive Science), CU Boulder
  • Drug Discovery Targeting the PARP1–HPF1 Complex for the Treatment of Cancer
    Dan LaBarbera, PhD, (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences), CU Anschutz, and Karolin Luger, PhD, (Department of Biochemistry), CU Boulder
  • Exploiting Biomechanical Properties of Peripheral CD8+ T Cells in Adoptive Cell Therapies for Cancer
    Jill Slansky, PhD, (Department of Immunology and Microbiology), CU Anschutz, and Xiaoyun Ding, PhD, (Department of Mechanical Engineering), CU Boulder
  • Immune Reprogramming of Myeloid Cells in Pancreatic Islets Using Engineered Particles
    Rachel S. Friedman, PhD, (Department of Immunology and Microbiology), CU Anschutz, and C.Wyatt Shields IV, PhD, (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering), CU Boulder
  • Novel Antimicrobials for Multi-Drug Resistant Osteomyelitis: Bacteriophage Stabilized for Extended Release by Atomic Layer Deposition Processes
    Carlos Catalano, Pharm.D., PhD, (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences), CU Anschutz, and Theodore Randolph, PhD, (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering), CU Boulder
  • Nucleotide Second Messengers at the Host-Pathogen Interface
    Kelly S. Doran, PhD, (Department of Immunology and Microbiology), CU Anschutz, and Aaron T. Whiteley, PhD, (Department of Biochemistry), CU Boulder
  • Sound Advice for Delivering Hearing Health Care: Evaluation of Current and Emerging Service Delivery Models for Hearing Aids
    Vinaya Manchaiah, PhD, (Department of Otolaryngology), CU Anschutz, and Anu Sharma, PhD, (Department of Speech Language and Hearing Sciences), CU Boulder

Topics: Research, Innovation,