Innovative Science Programs (ISPs)
The second major focus of the strategic plan will be to invest in emerging research areas that will catalyze discoveries within the signature programs. Four new Innovative Science Programs (ISPs) will be established, chosen because they have promising application to cancer, cardiovascular disease, immunology and infectious disease, orthopaedics, and neuromedicine. They also represent disciplines in which we already have the fundamentals of a strong program, or they represent areas we seek to strengthen in order to remain competitive.
In all four ISPs, there are strong opportunities for commercialization. In keeping with our effort to foster cross-campus collaboration, three of the new centers are joint ventures between the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the University’s College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.
Each new ISP will function as a virtual center, gathering together experts who already reside at the University of Rochester with strategic national recruits. Together, the 60 new recruits to our signature programs will represent a $50 million infusion of new talent. These strategic recruits will help us take full advantage of emerging areas of scientific inquiry that have application across all disease areas.
The four newly established Innovative Science Programs include:
- Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. An exciting innovative science program is stem cells, where cellular approaches to treat diseases and replace tissues offer great opportunity. Stem cells are early-stage cells capable of generating all the different tissues found in the body, a potential bounty of cells that can be customized to treat, in theory, almost any disease. More than 250 people in approximately 40 Rochester laboratories already work with stem cells, making the research area one of the most pervasive at the Medical Center. Exciting programs exist in neuromedicine for treating Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury; in cancer, including leukemias and prostate malignancies; and within musculoskeletal specialties which are looking to regenerate bone and cartilage. Novel approaches using drugs to differentiate and manipulate stem cells are underway. Scientists at the University of Rochester are among the few to have discovered stem cells and worked out their complicated lineage. They are also among the first to display the capability of manipulating them to treat disease effectively.
- Biomedical Imaging and Biomarkers (joint with the College). The application of imaging technology makes possible entirely new approaches for early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment in diseases as diverse as heart disease, cognitive disorders, and cancer. Bioimaging allows doctors to precisely assess what is going on deep inside the body, transforming our knowledge of living tissues and even individual cells. It also makes possible the development of biomarkers for disease, biochemical changes that provide early proof that a disease is present, is getting worse, or is responding to treatment. Although collaborations between the College and the Medical Center bring together some of the world’s top imaging and optics expertise, biomedical imaging is an area where the institution must grow quickly to maintain its lead among peers.
- Nanomedicine (joint with the College). With a great depth of expertise both at the Medical Center and the College, nanomedicine as an innovative scientific program provides the perfect fit with Rochester’s current capabilities. The new program formally brings together more than a dozen faculty members who’ve been working in a loose confederation for nearly a decade. The economic stakes are high: In recent years, the Federal government has plowed more than $2 billion into technologies based on devices just a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair, and New York state has added another half billion. Yet while nanotechnology research has boomed, its application to human health provides a rich, largely untapped opportunity. Examples include ultra-sensitive nano-sensors to detect organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or antibodies. Nano-materials are also being used to provide the scaffolding for the growth of new tissue, providing a new way to regenerate nerves, bones, and other vital tissues.
- Genomics and Systems Biology (joint with the College). The Human Genome Project has created a tidal wave of information on human physiology, leaving medical scientists scrambling to invent the disciplines necessary to draw medically relevant conclusions from these data. Systems biology involves modeling with computational biology to understand gene-to-gene interactions and develop treatments that are personalized to the individual. Genomics and Systems Biology were chosen as a priority because they represent the tools needed to understand and ultimately affect the incredibly complex systems of the human body. Along with the promise these disciplines represent, they were also selected because they are already areas of strength at the University of Rochester – among scientists working in cancer, cardiovascular and immunology research. Quickly expanding the Medical Center’s capabilities to conduct high-speed genomic and systems studies will be central to research competitiveness.
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