University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Up Front

Up Front

Groundbreaking; U of M and MDH awarded $17.5 million to develop national outbreak response network; a 50-year love story at Sanford Hall; $53.9 million to speed research, and a record number of U of M startups in 2023

Interim President Jeff Ettinger and a group of students get their hands dirty as they tossed the ceremonial first shovelsful of dirt for the reconstruction of Fraser Hall. The project will provide future students with a state-of-the-art home for chemistry. Construction is currently underway on the refurbishment.

U of M and MDH awarded $17.5 million to develop national outbreak response network

The U of M’s School of Public Health, Medical School, Institute for Health Informatics, Minnesota Electronic Health Records Consortium, and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) were awarded $17.5 million to help establish an outbreak response network to support decision-makers during public health emergencies. As one of 13 funded partners across the U.S., researchers at the University and MDH will work alongside the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA) to support the new national network—the Outbreak Analytics and Disease Modeling Network (OADM).

Grants were awarded in three distinct areas: innovation, integration, and implementation. Over the next five years, the U of M and MDH team will identify the most promising approaches and pilot test them at the state, local, tribal, or territorial level. They intend to gauge the success of the techniques in practical application by public health decision makers.

The U of M and MDH team will also work to address key issues identified during management of the Covid-19 pandemic, including predicting how many people might get sick and how many cases a particular intervention might prevent.

A 50-year love story at Sanford Hall

From left: Paul Ebert, Diane Ebert, Rob Zoller, Mary Zoller (B.S. ’76), and Marilyn Remer (B.A. ’81, B.C.E. ’82).

In 1973, two students met at a fall wine tasting party sponsored by the Sanford Hall cafeteria (the drinking age was 18 then) and ate a spaghetti dinner.

Diane Ebert (B.A. ‘80) recalls that Paul Ebert (B.S.E. ‘74), who would become her husband, told her that “he was studying to be an engineer, [but] the only engineer I knew was from the Casey Jones television program. I wondered why you needed a college degree to drive a train?”

On October 5—50 years from the date they first met—Paul, Diane, and a few friends revisited the site to reminisce, enjoying another spaghetti dinner and sparkling cider at Sanford Dining Hall, courtesy of the U of M’s M Food Co.

Later in the evening, Housing and Residence Life arranged a tour of the building for the group.

$53.9 million to speed research

The U of M’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) recently received $53.9 million in National Institutes of Health funding to find better, faster ways to bring scientific advances to real-world use.

The seven-year award is one of the largest federal research grants the University has ever received and the University’s third Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).

"This award signals confidence in the    U of M’s ability to speed the delivery of more discoveries to all people in the state."
Jakub Tolar, vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the U of M Medical School

“CTSI is vital not only to the University but to the entire state of Minnesota in promoting collaborative, innovative research and training by bridging disciplines, institutions, and communities to advance knowledge and improve human health,” says Jakub Tolar, vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the U of M Medical School. “This award signals confidence in the U of M’s ability to speed the delivery of more discoveries to all people in the state. It reinforces our role as a top 10 public research university, strengthens our research infrastructure across the U of M and beyond, and augments what our researchers and Minnesota communities can accomplish.”

Over the past 12 years, CTSI has worked with a national network of more than 60 medical research institutions to improve the translational research process to get more treatments to more patients faster. Researchers have opportunities to address systemwide scientific and operational problems in clinical and translational research that single teams can’t overcome.

Recent work from CTSI includes research showing metformin lowers the risk of getting long Covid, a telemedicine pilot to support kids with autism, training for community educator “stroke champions” to help reduce stroke disparities, and the creation of an app for integrating social determinants of health into patient care.

Record number of U of M startups in 2023

Rowan Lily Mahon, one of the founders of RoundtableRx, reviews donated medications for their inventory.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy RoundtableRx

The University of Minnesota launched a record-breaking 23 startup companies in fiscal year 2023, the result of a growing research portfolio, an increasingly entrepreneurial faculty culture, and years of program growth by the teams at U of M Technology Commercialization (Tech Comm) and its Venture Center.

“We didn’t just wake up one day and find ourselves to be the largest creator of startup companies in Minnesota,” says Rick Huebsch, associate vice president for research and technology commercialization. “We’ve spent years fine-tuning the process and building the ecosystem. We’re fortunate to have access to researchers who are embracing entrepreneurship and partners at the University and beyond that can help us build innovation.”

Existing U of M startups also had a successful FY 2023. Niron Magnetics, launched in 2014, received $17.5 million from the Department of Energy to scale up prototyping of its sustainable permanent magnets, and has raised more than $100 million in funding with plans to build a full-scale production facility. RoundtableRx, a nonprofit that distributes unused medications to individuals in need, was awarded $900,000 for its work over the next two years by the state of Minnesota.

If you liked this story, Minnesota Alumni magazine publishes four times a year highlighting U of M alumni and University activities. Early access to stories and a print subscription are benefits of being an Alumni Association member. Join here to receive a printed copy at home.

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