• Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building

BioFrontiers drives innovation without boundaries

At the University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute, researchers from the life sciences, physical sciences, computer science and engineering are working together to uncover new knowledge at the frontiers of science and partnering with industry to transform their discoveries into new tools.

The BioFrontiers Institute is uniquely defined both by our excellent faculty, research, and leadership and by the scientific and geographical ecosystem that empowers our work. BioFrontiers has a unique “frontier” culture that allows our researchers to explore new areas of bioscience by leveraging the resources and talents across the Institute and the university system. The Institute integrates faculty members from ten academic departments, allowing them to work across disciplines.

The BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado (CU) is an interdisciplinary hub for bioscience research and education with a focus on improving human health. Scientists at BioFrontiers are deeply committed to unraveling the complexities of biology through integrating many disciplines, including biology, biochemistry, computer science, chemistry, physics and engineering. Our goal is to work collectively to uncover new knowledge at the frontiers of bioscience in order to unlock the origins of disease, guide more accurate diagnosis, and develop targeted treatments, all in an effort to prevent and eradicate some of society’s most difficult health problems.

Led by Nobel Laureate Dr. Tom Cech and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Leslie Leinwand, BioFrontiers Institute faculty pursue scientific discovery together in the Institute’s new home – the state-of-the-art Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building (JSCBB), which opened in 2012. The Institute’s faculty includes members of prestigious national academies and institutes, founders of major international biotechnology companies, and winners of awards including the National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award.  Trainees have won fellowships from prestigious medical foundations including the Damon Runyon Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

BioFrontiers was founded on the premise that great research triumphs, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA, magnetic resonance imaging, and human genome sequencing, are the product of interdisciplinary inquiry and collaboration.  Constant ‘productive collisions’ are fostered and celebrated among researchers from a variety of scientific disciplines throughout the University of Colorado’s four campuses (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and the Anschutz Medical Campus), and in conjunction with local and national government agencies and industry. At BioFrontiers, our faculty, together with about 100 post-doctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students and staff members, conduct visionary research in state-of-the-art laboratories, research facilities, auditoria, and classrooms.  Since 2003, more than 400 patents and 65 inventions have come out of the research and work conducted by these investigators, along with affiliated CU faculty.

The BioFrontiers Institute is one of a small number of university-based interdisciplinary bioscience research institutes in the United States. Our unique culture and environment, and our strong connections to industry, distinguish us from our peers. While many institutions recruit faculty from different disciplines, BoFrontiers recruits faculty who, themselves, are already interdisciplinary. These talented, entrepreneurial, and adventurous researchers have achieved a deep understanding of two or more disciplines and have the ability to integrate them into both their research and their teaching. Thus, research teams can look at a single biological complexity from several different angles and disciplines.

This unique approach to bioscience, where a computer scientist can find a home in the Molecular, Cellular, and DevelopmentalBiology Department, where a start-up biotechnology company is located next door to a university researcher, or where a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology PhD Certificate Program can evolve PhD focus from biochemistry to materials science and engineering, is fostering research breakthroughs that might not otherwise be possible.

The BioFrontiers Institute relies on the generous support of alumni and friends to help fund its most promising research and educational programs, and its research facilities. Donors contributed over $60 Million to a successful capital campaign conducted by the BioFrontiers Institute. Gifts helped to partially fund the $160 Million cost of constructing and equipping the first phase of the biotechnology building and helped fund the Institutes first endowed chair and graduate fellowship.

Over the next decade, the institute will launch ambitious fundraising efforts, including to expand the new facility by 57,347 square feet, help fund 20 endowed graduate research fellowships, endow 10 chairs in support of our principal investigators, fund specific research investigations and highly specialized laboratories, as well as construct a new building dedicated to fostering partnerships with industry.  Like the research performed at BioFrontiers, these fundraising programs will help transform the future of bioscience.

It is an exciting time to be part of the BioFrontiers Institute’s vibrant interdisciplinary exploration of biology.  We hope that you will join and support the work being done at the BioFrontiers Institute, as we boldly venture into unexplored territory, with a spirit of curiosity, creativity and collaboration, to answer some of the most difficult and important health-related questions of our time.


PhotoNameContact Information
Tom Cech Tom Cech
Director, BioFrontiers Institute • Distinguished Professor • Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Chemistry and Biochemistry

Chief Scientific Officer

PhotoNameContact Information
Leslie Leinwand Leslie Leinwand
Chief Scientific Officer, BioFrontiers Institute • Professor
Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology • CU Denver School of Medicine

Associate Directors

PhotoNameContact Information
Natalie Ahn Natalie Ahn
Professor • Associate Director, BioFrontiers Institute • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Chemistry and Biochemistry
(303) 492-4799
Kristi Anseth Kristi Anseth
Distinguished Professor • Tisone Professor • Associate Director, BioFrontiers Institute • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Chemical and Biological Engineering
(303) 492-3147
Chris Shapard Chris Shapard
Associate Director and Chief of Staff