NextGen Precision Health initiative readies for building grand opening and collaborative research growth

A September 2021 project update from Richard Barohn, executive director of NextGen Precision Health.

Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health Building on the University of Missouri Campus in Columbia, Mo.

Sept. 28, 2021

Dear faculty, staff and students,

We are well on our way to the Oct. 19 grand opening of the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building. As we put the finishing touches on the facility and prepare researchers to move in, I want to give you an update on what is happening inside and what we all can look forward to on that day.

Richard Barohn, MD

Richard Barohn, MD

The NextGen building will showcase some of the most leading-edge technology currently available. At the center of that is the MAGNETOM Terra 7 Tesla (7T) magnetic resonance imaging unit. This equipment is the first of its kind in Missouri and its presence on campus would not be possible without our collaboration with Siemens Healthineers. Another important partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific is bringing new technology to the building’s Electron Microscopy Core.

Having state-of-the-art equipment is just the start: The investigators who will use it will make the difference. Talissa Altes, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology, has recruited six new faculty this year who are key partners in our discovery of new treatments in research fields like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, and epilepsy. Both Dr. Altes and I believe that the synergy created from this influx of talented faculty members combined with the equipment will help us to become leaders in magnetic resonance imaging, radiopharmaceutical development and nanomedicine research.

This momentum we are creating through new industry partnerships and attracting nationally respected researchers blends nicely with the impressive grand opening events our university has lined up. I see the building opening on Oct. 19 as the first of many events that will bring our talents together for precision health.

Richard J. Barohn, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, University of Missouri
Executive Director, NextGen Precision Health


Curators approve new name

On Sept. 2, the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted to officially name the NextGen facility the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building. This building is a one-of-a-kind health science research facility in the U.S., and Sen. Blunt has been an advocate at the state and national levels on behalf of advancing precision health.

NextGen building and its first researchers

Earlier this year, we identified the initial researchers and teams who will be moving into the NextGen building. These teams focus on two areas of study – cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Additionally, the new imaging faculty will be moving in this fall. We envision these faculty will be collaborating in the building through our seminars and other events that advance our goal of expanding team science. We will post information about education, training and other opportunities on our events page.

NextGen and the arts — a vital combination

During the grand opening ceremony, you will see an emphasis on the role the arts and artistic creation play in NextGen’s story.

  • Katina Bitsicas, the Fiola Faculty Fellow in the MU School of Visual Studies, has a powerful and personal story behind the glass overlay art pieces she has designed for the interior of the building.
  • I am also thrilled to say that the screens within the building will feature an original dance performed by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Dance and Music.
  • Guests will also get a chance to hear an original composition created by an MU student and performed by a brass quintet from the MU School of Music as part of the program.

Attention to the arts and humanities does not end there — after the grand opening, we will continue to engage arts faculty and staff to advance the aims of precision health through bidirectional collaborations that will elevate, enrich and distinguish our entire precision health initiative.

Panel discussion

Our latest NextGen Precision Health Discovery Series presentation was a panel discussion to illustrate the unique partnerships forming throughout NextGen. Industry and academic research partnerships are vital to the success of NextGen, and this discussion gave important insight on how the MU and Thermo Fisher partnership will help bring what we term a “resolution revolution” in medical imaging. On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Brett Froeliger, director of the MU Cognitive Neuroscience Systems Core Facility, will highlight his team’s research efforts into precision addiction science.

Note: All recorded Discovery Series presentations are available on our website. Questions or suggestions for future events can be send to Mary Hindle-Christie, senior director of education programs.

Clinical trial investigator training

Throughout August and the first week of September, we offered a five-session, online clinical trial investigator training program in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis. The program offered education and resources to faculty who are involved in conducting clinical trials or would like to become involved. We had more than 140 registrants for the first series, which is a testament to how eager faculty are to sharpen their skills in conducting clinical trial research. We plan to offer the training program again in early 2022. If you are interested and want to sign up to reserve a virtual seat, contact Mary Hindle-Christie.

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