In spring 2021, the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) led a strategic process to identify key priorities and initiatives for the campus over the next five years. OSI leveraged an inclusive, human-centered philosophy of design innovation to engage over 700 members of the campus community in contributing to a vision for how CU Anschutz might continue to break new ground in health sciences education, research, patient care, and community engagement. OSI convened a steering committee and four working groups centered on each of these mission areas.
Across all four work groups, but especially within the research work group, stakeholders identified a need to continue to innovate in healthcare. Participants spoke to the desire to:
Through a combination of institutional investment and generous gifts from donors, CU Anschutz has financed the development and continued operation of world-class research institutes and centers, such as the Center for Drug Discovery, the Gates Institute, and the Center for Health Equity. Existing entities like CU Innovations have continued to grow and expand, and dramatically ramp up partnerships with industry.
In 2022, a tremendous philanthropic commitment from the Gates Frontiers Fund helped establish a leading-edge research and development institute at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. This $200 million commitment from the Gates Frontiers Fund and CU Anschutz is among the largest in campus history and in the state of Colorado.
The Gates Institute serves as a hub of investigation and discovery with a deep focus on regenerative medicine and gene therapies. As a world-class translational research institute with biomanufacturing capabilities, it is part of a rich biomedical ecosystem that enables the development of life-saving treatments for a host of diseases and unmatched speed and scope. It brings together and supports researchers and clinicians who specialize in regenerative, cell and gene therapies, accelerating their discoveries from concept to cures.
Gates researchers Gates researchers have already launched human clinical trials using CAR T-cell therapy developed at the CU School of Medicine and created at the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility – the first cellular immunotherapy project where the developmental science, regulatory filing approvals, manufacturing process, and infusion of patients in clinical trials were all performed at CU Anschutz. With breakthroughs like these happening at the Gates Institute, CU Anschutz is positioning itself to become an anchor of the next major biotech hub.
Center for Drug Discovery
With generous support from The ALSAM Foundation, the Center for Drug Discovery (CDD) at the CU Skaggs Schools of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was established in 2020-2021 with a mission to become a hub for drug discovery in Colorado. The center is the only facility of its kind in the central U.S. focused solely on reducing the time and cost of screening new drugs and therapies. The goal of the CDD is to partner with researchers to harness diverse disease models for drug discovery and drug repurposing.
To accomplish this goal the CDD has built a state-of-the-art robotic high-throughput screening and imaging (HTS/HTI) facility that will be utilized to convert human disease models for HTS/HTI of hundreds of thousands of potential novel drugs and clinical drug repurposing. The center is powered by a custom high throughput automated robotic system which can cut screening time in half and a diverse drug library of 125,000 compounds as well as biologic and cell-based therapies.
The CDD brings researchers together to collaborate with academic schools and departments, other centers and institutes, and industry. The CDD functions to provide faculty, scientists, and students with know-how and educational opportunities in drug discovery. Ultimately, the goal of the CDD is to facilitate pre-clinical drug discovery and lead drug development. In the process, the CDD partners with investigators and CU Innovations to expand the intellectual property (IP) portfolio, increasing the pipeline of lead therapies and opportunities for clinical translation, licensing agreements, and the formation of startup companies.
mHealth Impact Laboratory
The mHealth Impact Laboratory at the Colorado School of Public Health is an incubator for innovative health technology and disease management initiatives, facilitating the creation and curation of digital health solutions.
Despite the promise of technology in improving health outcomes and preventing disease, current digital health interventions lack user-centered design, theory-informed features, and evidence of efficacy. The mHealth Impact Laboratory promotes the creation of well-designed products, rapid and rigorous research and evaluation, and curated, evidence-based solutions for mobile and digital health.
Learn more about the projects sponsored by the mHealth Impact Lab.
A major focus for CU Anschutz has long been innovating in ways to reduce health disparities and address the social determinants of health.
That's why CU Anschutz has committed to establishing a Center for Health Equity with start-up funding of $10 million over 5 years. This center will bring faculty, researchers, and community members together to collectively address health equity in the areas of teaching and learning, workforce development, research and policy and advocacy. It will work in partnership with the Aurora Wellness Community to quickly translate research to practice.
Another attempt to reduce health disparities has come in the form of a collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (ODEICE) and the Office of Research. The two units are working together to find ways to diversify clinical trials and educate researchers on how to engage with communities of color. The ODEICE team has been offering research recruitment workshops to help research coordinators and research managers recruit more diverse clinical trial participants and collaborating on ways to diversify the research workforce (which, in turn, should aid clinical trial recruitment).
Since 2016, CU Innovations has brought together industry partners, entrepreneurs, and investors to help CU Anschutz researchers develop new healthcare solutions that enhance the quality of life worldwide. Its expertise in patents, copyrights, and licensing help translate discovery into impact through transparent, flexible, best practice intellectual property management services. CU Innovations connects researchers at CU Anschutz Medical Campus with a variety of commercialization programs in the university and the community.
When the pandemic limited access to face-to-face care, CU Innovations partnered with startups to capitalize on the potential of telemedicine and technology-augmented in-home care. These partnerships looked to machine learning and the humble smartphone to extend and augment patient care. HealthRhythms and Oui Therapeutics use AI-enhanced platforms for mental health care, while BabyScripts engages and remotely monitors pregnant and postpartum patients. CU Anschutz and UCHealth are also continuing to work with BioIntellisense on several projects to enable remote patient monitoring.
CU Anschutz is also prioritizing data-driven oncology therapy through Oncoverity. A spinout company of CU Anschutz and argenx, Oncoverity is focused on optimizing and advancing the development of cusatuzumab, a novel anti-CD70 antibody, in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Drawing on $30M in funding, it will capitalize of the extensive translational biology insights of CU Anschutz faculty.
CU Innovations is resourcing the development of therapeutics in several other ways as well. SPARK | REACH Colorado is advancing biomedical discoveries for patient treatments with a focus on commercialization, product development, and technology transfer activities. These programs are now funding 14 translational medicine projects, including gene therapy for glaucoma, a type 1 diabetes vaccine, and 7 promising cancer treatments. CU Innovations’s new, 5,500 square-foot Startup Foundry is providing a wetlab incubator environment for startups working to bring their products to market.
CARE Innovation Center at UCHealth
A frequent collaborator with CU Innovations, the CARE Innovation Center at UC Health is revolutionizing healthcare with leading industry and start-up partners within eight areas of focus:
Learn more about these areas of focus and UCHealth Care Innovation Center portfolio here.