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$60M Lilly Endowment grant to fund IU physician research

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The Indiana University School of Medicine on Tuesday morning is scheduled to announce a $60 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support physician research.

IU plans to use the money to implement its new Indiana Physician Scientist Initiative, an effort to promote scientific discoveries that could improve human health, then commercialize them into products and treatments that benefit patients and produce new businesses and jobs.

Lilly Endowment previously had given IU $155 million to help underwrite its Indiana Genomics Initiative, which became a catalyst for Indiana life science investment and helped spur the creation of life science initiative BioCrossroads.

Repeated Lilly Endowment grants have enabled IU to move into the top ranks of life science and information technology research institutions, said IU President Michael McRobbie in a written statement.

“All told, the Lilly Endowment has given nearly $600 million to Indiana University over the past three decades, and I have no doubt that this latest grant will again have a transformative impact at IU and all across the state,” he said.

Lilly Endowment funds have also supported the $53 million Indiana Metabolomics and Cytomics Initiative, the $45 million Pervasive Technology Initiative and the $10 million Excellence in Indiana Initiative, which provided $10 million to recruit neuroscience researchers.

IU has leveraged Lilly Endowment’s gifts to attract major grants from other institutions. The Indiana Genomics Initiative alone has attracted another $682 million in research grants, which ultimately has led to more than 60 international patents and the formation of four life science startup companies.

“We are focusing on physician-scientists with this initiative because we know the strength of this combination of skills and training and the need for more of these scientists in today’s research environment,” said Dr. Craig Brater, dean of the IU School of Medicine. “This award will allow us to recruit a cluster of intellectual talent that will both mesh with and enhance our current strengths and will pay dividends for decades to come.”

Dr. David Wilkes, executive associate dean for research affairs at the IU School of Medicine, will direct the Indiana Physician Scientist Initiative. Its specific goals include:

— Recruiting 20 top physician scientists to the IU School of Medicine with an investment of $37.5 million. Their expected focus will be on cancer, neurosciences and diabetes/vascular disease.

— Training the next generation of physician-researchers by strengthening IU’s Medical Scientist Training Program with a $10 million investment.

— Underwriting Indiana Biobank with $6 million for the storage of biological samples that provide genetic and other information for biomedical research. Another $2 million will go to specialists who focus on managing Biobank data.

— Spending $2 million to expand the IU School of Medicine’s international programs in Kenya, Mexico, Honduras and China.

— Investing $2 million in ITRAC, a program that works with scientists to map the steps to take a scientific discovery from the lab to human testing.

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