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Purdue makes major new investments in the life sciences - Life Sciences Pillars of Excellence


This article was posted in "Purdue Today" issue October 14, 2015.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University announced Tuesday (Oct. 13) plans to establish a new Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences Initiative aimed at enhancing Purdue's life sciences research and graduate education. The initiative comes as part of Purdue's recently announced $2 billion "Ever True" capital campaign.

The investment will result in cohesive efforts across several colleges and is designed to produce preeminent contributions in the areas of integrative neurosciences and inflammation and immunology and infectious diseases. Purdue's total investment in its life sciences program of more than $60 million will augment existing capabilities in people, programs and infrastructure.

"The life sciences are a critical part of our considerable research portfolio at Purdue and enhancing our impact and reputation in this area is of great significance to Purdue's future," said President Mitch Daniels.

The new initiative will support the hiring of high-profile, leading faculty, the purchase of advanced instrumentation, and the establishment or upgrade of core facilities in the life sciences, including the addition of highly trained technical staff.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the life sciences at Purdue and our office is proud to support such an effort," said Deba Dutta, Purdue's provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity. "Life sciences faculty members from our College of Science are leading this important initiative, with strong participation of faculty from a majority of other colleges, which is key to the success of our Pillars effort."

Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships and the Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said the concept for the Pillars of Excellence emerged from discussions with faculty over several months and included a careful selection process that narrowed 17 proposals to the final two.

"This idea has provided an unprecedented opportunity for our life sciences faculty to organize around major themes that will help move Purdue life sciences forward," Garimella said. "The public presentations, which were a part of the selection process, provided an exciting window into our faculty members' visions for the future of the biological sciences and their strategies for how Purdue could best position itself to make major contributions to the evolving national and international life sciences agenda."

Dutta said, "All the presentations described visions that were exciting and worthy, and it was clear that we had a major opportunity for Purdue to elevate its already highly regarded life sciences research in a way that can positively impact lives."

A review committee comprising life sciences leaders from around the nation including some at Purdue recommended the selection of two final teams to the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships (EVPRP) and the Provost: the Center for Integrative Neurosciences, proposed by a team led by Donna Fekete, professor of biological sciences; and the Institute for Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, proposed by a team led by Richard Kuhn, professor and head of the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Bindley Bioscience Center. Fekete and Kuhn both will serve as inaugural directors of their respective Pillars, which will be established in Discovery Park, home to Purdue's large, interdisciplinary research efforts.

The Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences initiative will be implemented as a partnership among pillar leadership teams and the offices of the EVPRP and Provost. Early actions will coalesce Purdue's considerable strengths across related disciplines to bring a concerted focus to areas of emerging national importance in the life sciences. In a time of declining federal support, Purdue's strategic investment in these areas will offer exciting opportunities for current and future faculty.

Three other promising Pillars of Excellence ideas are being supported through infrastructure investments. These areas include precision medicine and pharmacophenomics, biological big data science, and toxicological sciences and engineering, led by Barbara Golden, professor of biochemistry; James Fleet, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition Science; and Joseph Irudayaraj, professor of biological engineering.

Sources: Suresh Garimella,

Deba Dutta,

Donna Fekete,

Richard Kuhn,

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