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MU receives nearly $4 million from National Institutes of Health to commercialize biomedical discoveries

Sheila Grant poses in front of some foliage.

“This is an exciting time for translational research at MU,” Mizzou Engineering’s Sheila Grant said. “We are honored to be selected as the lead institution in this effort to turn biomedical breakthroughs into potentially life-saving products. This grant illustrates the important role the University of Missouri System will play in the future of translational research that will benefit the world’s population.”

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Missouri-Columbia nearly $4 million to direct a consortium of Midwestern universities that will collaborate to turn biomedical discoveries into marketable products.

The Midwest Biomedical Accelerator Consortium (MBArC), centered at MU, will harness the resources of the UM System and foster collaborations between investigators from its campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis. In addition, MBArC will establish a robust research and educational link between MU and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, as well as its partnering universities. To this collaboration MU brings its outstanding biomedical and bioengineering research programs and its vibrant track record of participation in the Coulter Biomedical Accelerator Program, led by program director Jaya Ghosh. The consortium will extend into six contiguous states in the heartland and reach up to 16 universities, which will work together to transform biomedical innovations into small businesses whose products improve patient care.

William Fay, MU School of Medicine senior associate dean for research; Sheila Grant, MU associate vice chancellor of research and strategic initiatives and MU College of Engineering associate dean of research; Bill Turpin, MU interim associate vice chancellor for economic development; and Jaya Ghosh, director of the MU Coulter Biomedical Accelerator will lead the effort.

“Several hurdles limit commercialization of promising laboratory discoveries, including lack of awareness by researchers that taking the product to market is an option, concerns that those efforts delay academic advancement, and failure to connect with the experts necessary to complete the process,” Fay said. “The objective of this project is to address those concerns and establish a regional partnership that promotes academic entrepreneurship.”

MBArC builds on the success of the MU Coulter Biomedical Accelerator Program which began in 2012 as a 5-year, $5 million partnership between MU and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. In 2016, MU committed $4 million to continue funding the program through 2022. The MU Coulter Program capitalizes on the best of academia and industry to accelerate the translation of biomedical innovations into products that improve patient care. Since its inception in 2012, the Coulter Program has awarded more than $3.84 million in bridge grant funding to 32 projects and more than $437,000 in seed grant funding to 17 early stage projects. These investments have led to $17.6 million in new government grants and $7.3 million in professional funding (angel investment, venture capital, etc.).

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, who serves as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, is excited about this partnership for the future of health care.

“Accelerating discoveries from the lab to the patient will have a significant impact on quality of life and patient outcomes by getting medical advances into use faster,” Blunt said. “The University of Missouri is a national leader in biomedical and bioengineering research, and this partnership with the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City will further strengthen and advance promising health technologies from ‘bench-to-bedside.’ As chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health, maintaining a pattern of sustained funding increases for NIH-funded research has been, and will continue to be, a top priority.”

Fay, Grant, Turpin and Ghosh will oversee the Midwest Biomedical Accelerator Consortium, which will develop strategic partnerships that give researchers the training and resources needed to validate the clinical and commercial feasibility of their innovations and provide researchers with funding and mentorship necessary to develop products that prevent and treat diseases.

“This initiative will build on existing programs within our institutions to increase health-related business development in Missouri, Kansas and adjoining states,” Turpin said. “Our Midwest Biomedical Accelerator Consortium will promote commercialization of novel scientific discoveries and establish a sustainable infrastructure to translate those discoveries into products.”

The NIH grant coincides with development of the University of Missouri NextGen Precision Health Initiative, which is designed to translate fundamental research from laboratories into effective treatments and devices, to benefit the health of all Missourians as well as the rest of the world. The approximately 265,000-square-foot, five-story precision health facility under construction on the MU campus will provide space for more than 60 principal investigators, about half of whom will be newly recruited in areas such as engineering, medicine, veterinary medicine, animal sciences, and arts and science.

“This is an exciting time for translational research at MU,” Grant said. “We are honored to be selected as the lead institution in this effort to turn biomedical breakthroughs into potentially life-saving products. This grant illustrates the important role the University of Missouri System will play in the future of translational research that will benefit the world’s population.”

The NIH grant run includes $994,707 for the first year, then $980,957 each subsequent year through August 2023.

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