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Biomedical Research Support

Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust renews funding for Chicago Biomedical Consortium

February 9, 2011 | by Megan Fellman
Chicago Biomedical Consortium logo
EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust has renewed its funding commitment to the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC), a collaboration of Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Chicago.

The initial five-year funding commitment of $25 million, which concluded with a $5 million grant for 2010, supports and stimulates innovative multi-institutional collaborations in research and education that have propelled the Chicago area to become a leader in biomedical sciences, said Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer of The Chicago Community Trust.

“Based on a review of this initiative during its fourth year, the return on investment has been extraordinary, and the Searle family and The Chicago Community Trust have announced a five-year extension of the program beginning in January 2011,” Mazany said.

“The Searle family is very pleased with the innovations the CBC has introduced to Chicago and the scientific community during the past five years,” said Karie Thomson, a Searle family member and consultant to the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. “It makes sense to continue this collaborative work that is central to furthering Chicago’s prominence as a leader in biomedical sciences and offers much hope for scientific advancements. We look forward to seeing what the next five years uncover.”

Members of the Searle family were instrumental in establishing the CBC and have supported the program through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust since the CBC’s inception.

During the last five years, the CBC has garnered more than $118 million in grants from outside funders, principally the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but also private foundations, companies and donors. CBC funding has supported work resulting in more than 200 published papers, including 35 publications in influential journals such as Science, Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nature.

The CBC has created a variety of funding programs with the grants provided by the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. These programs include the CBC Lever Awards, which provide immediate matching funds for large federal grants.

Lever Awards totaling $7.1 million have proven instrumental in establishing three national research centers of excellence in Chicago, resulting in the acquisition of more than $36 million in federal funding from the NIH.

A 2008 Lever Award for $3 million helped fund the development of Bionimbus, a cloud-based system for managing, analyzing and sharing genomic data, at the Chicago Center for Systems Biology.

Another 2008 Lever Award, for $2 million, went to the Chicago Tri-Institutional Center of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development to support state-of-the-art chemical libraries that will help identify new compounds for future drug development and basic biomedical research.

A 2010 Lever Award, for $2.1 million, will support core facilities affiliated with Northwestern’s Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence that will provide wide access to unique cell-culture tools for CBC researchers.

The CBC has funded an additional 31 inter-institutional research collaborations via Catalyst Awards, which provide up to $200,000, and Spark Awards, which provide up to $400,000, for one- or two-year projects.

Recruitment Awards have proven to be another high-impact strategy for the CBC. These awards have helped bring two high-profile senior faculty members, Kevin White and Neil Kelleher, to the University of Chicago and Northwestern, respectively. The CBC’s new junior investigator program has provided additional start-up funds for six young researchers who are launching their careers at CBC institutions.

The CBC also has produced numerous workshops on proteomics, small molecular therapeutic strategies, RNA biology and other topics that stimulate student interactions and new ideas.

Comments about the CBC and the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust:

Paula Allen-Meares, chancellor, UIC: “The CBC has become an important engine for economic growth and job creation, combining the resources of the city’s great research universities to help Chicago compete for the large collaborative projects that are at the heart of 21st-century science.”

Morton Schapiro, president, Northwestern: “It is rare that a family has the foresight to fund research of this collaborative nature. The support of the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust enables three great research institutions to continue developing partnerships that will lead to important medical advances benefiting the people of Chicago and the nation.”

Robert Zimmer, president, University of Chicago: “In a relatively short time, the CBC has become an influential agent for promoting scientific discovery and achievement in our region, and its innovative model of collaboration among scientists, universities, and philanthropists is attracting wide attention and admiration. I am confident its impact will be even greater over the coming five years.”

Brenda Russell, executive associate vice chancellor for research and CBC scientific director, UIC: “Among UIC’s strengths as a research institution has been our ability to work collaboratively, combining many different approaches to a problem, whether that means bringing genetics, metabolic and molecular understanding that will create paradigm shifts for entirely new approaches for health and disease or reaching across the campuses to bring insights from engineering and physics into medical research. The CBC allows us to build on this capacity, bringing us into partnership with Chicago’s other great research universities.”

Richard I. Morimoto, Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biology and CBC scientific director, Northwestern: “The renewed funding commitment validates the efforts of many scientists and academic leaders to demonstrate that institutions can collaborate and that Chicagoland can be a leading biomedical sciences destination. During the initial period of funding, many came together and recognized previously unexplored opportunities to collaborate and establish new research programs. This led to the awarding of many new large-scale collaborative grants from the National Institutes of Health. We will continue building on our success and pushing the edges of discovery to imagine even more creative ideas and scientific directions.”

Jonathan Silverstein, former associate professor of surgery and outgoing CBC scientific director, University of Chicago: “It’s tremendously gratifying to see the impact of the CBC these past five years and exciting to consider the possibility of even greater impact the next five years. We appreciate deeply the opportunity these visionary philanthropists created. Harnessing the strengths of our research universities in the Chicago region by motivating inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary collaboration was a simple idea, but complex to achieve.”

Topics: University News