Enabling University Innovations through Partnerships

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Indiana is intellectually and geographically positioned to be the crossroads of American business. Just as important, our culture of collaboration among the state’s universities and with private-sector partners and foundations further enables that prospect.

In a recent Life Sciences Perspective article, Bill Stephan, Indiana University Vice President for Engagement, stressed the importance of collaborative efforts between the state’s research universities. He also referenced a BioCrossroads report, prepared by TEConomy Partners titled "The Importance of Research Universities,” which notes that research universities provide significant benefits that positively influence economic development, human capital, knowledge expansion and innovation, and societal well-being and quality of life.

I couldn’t agree more. Across Indiana, faculty and staff at our universities play vital roles in creating the innovations that drive our economy and delivering a prepared workforce to propel it.

We do this through partnerships among universities, industry and government, and with philanthropic foundations and organizations. All are key to advancing an Indiana economic ecosystem and driving the state forward.   

Purdue University and Indiana University have made investments totaling nearly half a billion dollars focused on advancing the life sciences. Partnerships are an integral part of the state’s life sciences successes and ensure further growth. Indiana is second only to California in life sciences sector exports, representing nearly $10 billion in products.

Sharing resources is an efficient and effective partnership model. The Purdue and IU National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers share a Collaborative Core for Cancer Bioinformatics. This joint facility includes partnership support from both the federal level and the Walther Cancer Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation.

Equally important, reaching beyond the boundaries of our state and nation to international partners is a focal point in relationship building at Purdue and our sister institutions.

At the international level, global alliances, foundations and institutional investments support a Notre Dame - Purdue collaborative effort to develop low-cost analytical tools (Paper analytical devices - PADs) to screen for falsified medicines in Kenya. This important work was highlighted on PBS Newshour not long ago.

Without partnerships, it would be difficult for our universities to produce the kinds of innovations that can impact the quality of life for our citizens and shape the future tech-economy.  Following are just a few of the innovations on the frontlines of Purdue’s research efforts that have the potential to:

Detect diseases or injuries with just a drop or two of blood using tiny, electronic vibrating sensors. The resonant sensors allow sensitive, inexpensive detection of biomarkers that can signify disease, illness or trauma, and could be developed into an inexpensive blood test for concussions.

Diagnose diseases in the field that previously took days in a lab  by using inexpensive paper-based devices or a breathalyzer that could replace a traditional diabetes glucometer, requiring finger pricks, or a liquid bandage to detect drug overdose in real-time.

Convert bad fat to good fat in an effort to provide a safe and effective way to treat obesity and diabetes. Adipo Therapeutics LLC, a Purdue-based startup is developing this disruptive nano-therapeutic platform.

Make high throughput screening, a process often used in drug discovery, 10 times faster than previous methods. The technique allows researchers to perform a reaction and analyze the product in one-step, in one second.

These and hundreds of other groundbreaking discoveries are happening daily in our universities and are enhanced by the local, regional, national and international partnerships we have formed. All of this benefits our students’ learning experience and prepares them for leadership roles in a global economy.

To be a modern university means to have an ecosystem for basic research while also advancing technology, fostering public-private partnerships, and nurturing talent. Collaborations are good for everyone. The work happening at Purdue and at universities across Indiana and nationally advances our knowledge and the innovations that improve the quality of life in our state and beyond.

Suresh V. Garimella is Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, and the Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University.

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