A new era of research collaboration is unfolding at the University of Colorado. The University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are moving forward together on a bold plan to enhance research collaborations with the aim of generating knowledge that improves human health and spurs innovation and economic development.
The two campuses will address a range of issues facing the two research powerhouses and charges leadership to:
• Drive innovation and research breakthroughs, win more competitive awards, and elevate reputation through combined research efforts;
• Identify areas of collaboration between existing research strengths in biosciences, biochemistry, engineering, arts and sciences, pharmacology and immunology, public health, mental health, and other areas;
• Remove existing barriers in administrative processes and social and political perceptions, and unlock potential through leadership communication and connectivity;
• Charter individuals and groups on both campuses to own and accelerate the process of enhanced partnership.
“Faculty members at CU have substantial expertise in areas of critical importance to society, and fostering collaborations among them will allow us to enhance our impact,” said CU President Mark Kennedy. “Being deliberate about furthering partnerships between faculty on our two biggest research campuses will also help focus our collective efforts on common problems, issues and opportunities.”
With a combined total research enterprise of nearly $1.2 billion, the two campuses have both grown research over 20% the last three years and, combined, represent one of the top 10 public research enterprises in the nation.
Even now, there about 16 research partnerships between the two campuses facilitated by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The average NIH award for these projects is $1.8 million. Various projects are already underway.
For instance, CU Boulder engineers and faculty from the Consortium for Fibrosis Research & Translation (CFReT) at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus teamed up to develop biomaterial-based “mimics” of heart tissues to measure patients’ responses to an aortic valve replacement procedure, offering new insight into the ways that cardiac tissue re-shapes itself post-surgery.
Other collaborations include research into improving colonoscopy technology and finding new ways to fight cancer by examining a cluster of proteins called PRC2 that has become a key target for new cancer-fighting drugs. Another ongoing collaboration deals with sleep, and the health risks associated with not getting enough of it.
“As the leading research institution in the region, the University of Colorado is already regarded as a research leader in a diverse range of disciplines,” said Terri Fiez, vice chancellor for research and innovation at CU Boulder. “This new collaboration with our colleagues at Anschutz will help us combine those strengths to achieve even greater impact, both individually and collectively.”
CU analysts estimate the two campuses could net an additional $10 million or more in new research dollars annually by: streamlining processes; using seed grants to spur early collaborations; helping faculty rapidly respond to federal research opportunities; and increasing the connectivity between the two campuses to increase joint public and private proposal submissions.
“We are already moving forward with new joint committees to determine the optimal framework to move this initiative forward,” said Thomas Flaig, MD, interim vice chancellor of research at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “We’re excited to see what more we can do by collaborating even more effectively and efficiently together.”
Guest contributor: Julie Poppen, CU Boulder