The Indiana University School of Medicine is getting $25 million from the Lilly Endowment to recruit new scientists to Indiana, and to pair them up directly with big Indiana companies.
Medical school research dean Anantha Shekhar says it aims to fast-track the creation of treatments from discoveries about cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and more.
He says new technologies like gene sequencing are facilitating those applications faster than ever.
“However, in order to do that, we need a corporate partner to be able to bring that as a product,” Shekhar says. “I think that’s where this combination would have a much greater impact and much more rapid success.”
The Lilly Endowment grant will let IU recruit people to teach, research and consult on fields such as childhood and adult cancers, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The researchers will work directly with corporate partners such as Eli Lilly, Roche, Dow Agrosciences and Cook. Normally, Shekhar says, they’d have to work more individually to find a company that can apply their research.
“So this is much more intentional, to really, from day one, connect them with the right partner to create a product,” he says.
The collaboration is similar to ones Purdue University formed to get drug and industrial research to market quickly. The new IU School of Medicine endowment will include partnerships with Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame.
All these corporate and academic partners will also sit on a scientific advisory board that will decide what areas of study need more researchers in Indiana.
Shekhar says he hopes these connections, especially with corporate resources, will make top minds more likely to choose Indiana.
“We think that, together, this could be a big attractor for someone who would be in a big city but will have to go through the usual, inefficient process to connect to a corporate translation,” he says.
Plus, he says the grant will diversify the school’s funding stream, at an uncertain time for federal research dollars. It will also help set up new programs, such as a Ph.D. in bioinformatics – the analysis of gene data.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said IU had received a $25-million endowment from Eli Lilly. In fact, it is a grant from the Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic organization started by the Lilly family.