March 15, 2021
As the building takes shape, 15 researchers and their teams are preparing for their move into the new NextGen Precision Health building at Virginia Avenue and Hospital Drive. These researchers are taking the first steps into a new scientific frontier, with a collaborative approach that aims to launch the University of Missouri into the national precision health research conversation.
NextGen Precision Health is the highest priority of MU, its partners across the UM System, MU Health Care and MU Extension with the goal of developing innovative solutions for society’s greatest health challenges. The NextGen building on the MU campus anchors the overall initiative and brings together an unparalleled set of resources under one roof. The ultimate objective: Shorten the nearly two-decade journey it takes for research findings to reach clinical practice.
The initiative is led by Richard Barohn, executive vice chancellor for health affairs and executive director of NextGen Precision Health. Barohn’s experience building translational research programs is now being applied to help Mizzou and the UM System accelerate precision health efforts.
“The university is using NextGen to build clusters of excellence for research in cancer, cardiovascular, Alzheimer’s disease, medical data science, high-tech imaging and much more,” Barohn said. “These clusters will be the foundation of an interconnected systemwide network that will elevate University of Missouri research.”
Although the new building will contain an incredible collection of state-of-the-art research equipment, the NextGen initiative is more than a building. It’s about the synergistic potential of bringing together interdisciplinary teams and removing barriers to high-impact collaboration. The 15 researchers in the first wave to occupy the building represent two NextGen priority research areas: cancer and immunology, and cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.
Excitement for a shared space
Mark Daniels and Emma Teixeiro-Pernas are associate professors of molecular microbiology and immunology and two members of the first wave of cancer and immunology researchers set to move into the new building. NextGen resources will help them accelerate their research on white blood cells and allow a space for collaboration.
“As a result of being at MU, we’ve developed collaborations with chemists, bioengineers and veterinary oncologists,” Daniels said. “With the move, the fact that we can be more focused and share a space is really an attractive thing.”
“Scientists live off the excitement of other scientists,” Teixeiro-Pernas said. “This building brings together a critical mass of researchers who see things in different ways, to grow together and solve real problems.”
A foundation for collaboration
Luis Martinez-Lemus, a professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, is part of the cardiovascular and metabolic disorders group and is also one of six faculty research leads (FRLs) of the NextGen initiative. Martinez-Lemus knows the power of cross-disciplinary collaboration, as he’s witnessed it firsthand with his own research. “For my work in vascular remodeling, collaboration has been essential. Two years ago, I combined my lab with those of Dr. Camila Manrique-Acevedo and Dr. Jaume Padilla, and we continue to work together closely and submit grants together often,” he said. “As an FRL, my big dream is that we will make the entire building collaborative.”
While Martinez-Lemus will reside in the NextGen building, he’s quick to point out that the initiative reaches far beyond the physical space.
“NextGen is a whole system movement. We want all groups across the university collaborating within NextGen. The building is just a starting point.”
University community members are invited to attend the NextGen Precision Health Discovery Series, held monthly.