Drug resistance is arguably one of the most significant medical challenges of our era, costing millions of lives a year. Antibiotics, once a miracle cure against deadly bacterial infections, have bred antibiotic-resistant bugs that now defy all treatments. Meanwhile, cancers continue to evade even our most advanced treatments and a cure remains elusive. Despite our greatest efforts, these challenges remain beyond the reach of the medical research. Rising to the challenge, BioFrontiers has assembled a dream team of researchers to face off against modern medicine’s greatest foe.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was a landmark first in cancer prevention, protecting women against the virus that causes cervical cancers. Yet this life-saving vaccine and many others remain inaccessible to a large part of the developing world due to their high cost and need for refrigeration. Many have tried to overcome these barriers to universal vaccination, but thus far, all have fallen short. Now BioFrontiers scientist Bob Garcea and collaborator, Ted Randolph, promise to finally break down these barriers with a fresh, cross-disciplinary approach.
Despite the widespread popularity of “interdisciplinarity” (a major buzz-word in current bioscience research), few programs deliver on its promise. BioFrontiers’ Interdisciplinary Quantative Biology PhD Certificate Program (IQ Biology) is a rare breed, designed from the ground up to break down academic silos, and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. This unique program trains the next generation of innovation leaders, laying the foundation for tomorrow’s bioscience advances. To secure the future of the program, BioFrontiers advisory board members Chris Christoffersen, Ken Hitchner, Jim Linfield, and Jeannie Thompson, along with their families, joined together to fund the Cech-Leinwand Endowed Graduate Fellowship.
Joey Azofeifa came to CU Boulder looking for a challenge. While he applied to many top notch biology programs, the IQ Biology Program spoke to him as the only place he could challenge himself and gain new perspective by delving into a completely new field—computational biology. “IQ Biology brings people in from diverse backgrounds and invests in them. They really took a chance on me and bridged across departments to train me and get me where I wanted to go,” says Joey. The chance paid off, as Joey threw himself into computational studies and interdisciplinary research that bridged genomics and machine learning in ways that had never been done before.
As part of a focused effort to expand the BioFrontiers Institute’s research portfolio in Computational Biology, five new faculty were recently recruited. Dan Larremore and John Rinn came on board in Fall 2017, and Orit Peleg arrived in Spring 2018. Ed Choung and Ryan Layer will arrive in Fall 2018 (Stay tuned!). With advances in technology that are providing researchers with vast quantities of biological data to manage and interpret, their expertise and ability to converse in more than one scientific discipline will help identify useful information in large sets of unsorted, disorderly data.
Innovative faculty make their mark. As recognition of their pioneering advances in biotechnology, the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has welcomed five BioFrontiers faculty to its ranks in the last three years. Marvin Caruthers and Larry Gold now join their colleagues Leslie Leinwand (2016), Christopher Bowman (2016), and Kristi Anseth (2015) in this exclusive club. These distinguished faculty are recognized not only for their leadership in forging new frontiers in biosciences, but also for their noteworthy impacts on quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.
As Boulder’s biotech community continues to thrive and grow, The Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building debuted its state-of-the-art E-Wing in August of 2017. The 56,340-square-foot E-Wing features next-generation spaces where students and faculty can continue their groundbreaking interdisciplinary research.