Full Proposals Invited

Five teams have been selected to submit full proposals for funding through the Indiana University Grand Challenges Program, the most ambitious research program in the university’s history.

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Five teams have been selected to submit full proposals for funding through the Indiana University Grand Challenges Program, the most ambitious research program in the university's history.

The program, launched in September, will invest up to $300 million over five years to address some of the most urgent challenges facing Indiana and the world.

The finalists were selected from 21 teams of IU faculty members that submitted preliminary proposals in November. Applicants represented 20 schools on five IU campuses across the state.

"The Grand Challenges program offers a unique and exciting opportunity for IU to lead the way in developing responses to our society's most complex and important problems," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "The number of faculty members who participated in the preliminary proposals we received strongly reflects our faculty’s commitment to transformative, innovative and interdisciplinary research that benefits the people of Indiana, the nation and the world."

The selected preliminary proposals and their team leaders are:

  • "Health Equity in Indiana and Beyond," David Burr, Distinguished Professor and associate vice chancellor for research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Michael Reece, professor and associate dean at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.
  • "Prepared for Change: Sustaining Nature’s Assets, Public Health and Human Well-Being," Ellen Ketterson, Distinguished Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology.
  • "Shaping Our Future: Knowledge, Science and Governance for Sustainable Water Resources," Todd Royer, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington.
  • "Transforming Environmental Protection and Health for Indiana and Beyond," Joseph Shaw, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington.
  • "Precision Health Initiative," Anantha Shekhar, associate vice president for clinical affairs at IU and executive associate dean for research at the IU School of Medicine on the IUPUI campus.

All preliminary proposals were evaluated by a faculty review committee, which recommended a subset for further consideration to McRobbie, who named the five selected for development into full proposals.

IU Vice President for Research Fred Cate, whose office is overseeing the Grand Challenges Program, noted that all five proposals selected for further development focused on medicine or the environmental science and policy, which are recognized strengths of IU.

"While we received proposals from a wide variety of fields, these five proposals impressed the reviewers as not only strong in their own right but as addressing issues of particular importance to the people and economy of Indiana," Cate said. "Moreover, these proposals draw effectively on a wide range of strengths at IU, including not only health care and environmental science, but basic sciences, information technology, and public policy and management."

Over the next four months, Cate said, members of the Office of the Vice President for Research and other campus and university offices will work with the teams to develop the strongest proposals possible.

In addition to substantial financial support, the IU Grand Challenges Program will also provide up to 30 new faculty positions, as well as support for faculty startup needs, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, equipment and facilities for each funded proposal.

Full proposals from the finalists are due April 18, and McRobbie is expected to announce the one or two to be funded in June. More information on each proposal is available at the Grand Challenges Program website.

The selected preliminary proposals and their team leaders are:

Health Equity in Indiana and Beyond

Gabriel Filippelli, Professor of Earth Sciences, Purdue School of Science, Director of the Center for Urban Health, IUPUI and William Hetrick, Professor and Chair, Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, IU Bloomington.

A multidisciplinary, community-engaged program of research to reduce health disparities in Indiana and to develop and implement models of engagement and integration that inform health equity policies and practice at institutional, national and global scales.

We propose to reimagine how we conduct health-related research at IU by focusing on health equity research and impact in critical areas, including early identification of new, highly malleable risk factors, prevention strategies, innovative treatments, and policy protections for Indiana and beyond. Health disparities in Indiana are profound, effectively separating the healthy “haves” from the “have nots” who suffer from largely treatable or avoidable disease—overcoming these disparities requires a comprehensive gene-to-policy approach that works with communities to provide effective solutions. This is a Grand Challenge, one based on current IU strengths, and one we are prepared to take on. To achieve this, we will build an integrated program of Health Equity Cores from extant communities of researchers, educators, and community partners. These Cores will take novel Health Equity Projects, and inform and support these projects with research partnerships, expertise, and tools to engage IU faculty, students, and community partners. We will broadly share discoveries, transforming these projects into programs of impact. The Projects will address discrete issues where there is already a strong research base at IU and develop new research areas into world-class programs with the addition of resources, including targeted hires of critical faculty who will enhance collaboration across these silos of strengths. For some of these Projects, therapies or prevention strategies are known but are not easily accessible in disadvantaged communities. For others, there is a need for basic research to better understand underlying risk mechanisms, to develop effective interventions, and to ensure availability to all.

Contacts:

Prepared for Change: Sustaining Nature's Assets, Public Health and Human Well-being

Ellen Ketterson, Distinguished Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology.

The grand challenge is to prepare for ongoing environmental and demographic changes in order to sustain economic opportunities, protect public health, strengthen Hoosier communities, and maintain valuable ecological services.

Our planet is changing rapidly. Climate disruption, urbanization, and other global transformations are spurring movements of people and animals into new places. Seasonal climatic variation is increasingly out of sync with biological processes, such as leaf emergence and animal migrations. New travel and economic patterns are altering the spread of disease. There is an urgent need for communities in Indiana and around the world to plan for change rather than simply react to problems after they become severe. Successfully adapting to change will require better understanding of human connections to natural systems and the strategic balancing of natural, social, and built capital for thriving, resilient human and natural communities. Our team will refine methods for integrating ecosystems with our social and built infrastructure; improve tracking and management of animals, plants, and microbes critical to agricultural and public health; and innovate new laws and strategies for protecting biodiversity. Effective preparation for change must also invite Hoosiers to reflect on their attitudes and change their behavior. This will require new narratives to help people contextualize and celebrate human-nature relationships, and envision new possibilities for sustaining diverse human communities. Our government, community, and business partners will help us test and demonstrate what we develop.

Contact:

Shaping Our Future: Knowledge, Science, and Governance for Sustainable Water Resources

Todd Royer, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington.

Using Indiana as a model for regional and global solutions, this Grand Challenge will develop and demonstrate new technologies, data systems, and policy arrangements for sustainable management of water resources in support of human welfare and environmental quality.

Access to reliable, unpolluted water is key to human welfare and maintenance of environmental quality. However, water scarcity, poor water quality, inadequate infrastructure, and governance failures are persistent and growing threats to water resource sustainability. Sustaining high-quality water resources is a challenge faced not only in Indiana, but also by societies across the globe. Indiana University is uniquely positioned to address the challenge of sustainable water resources. This proposal leverages IU’s renowned strengths in natural sciences, governance, and computing—a powerful combination that, when brought bear to on water resources, can offer robust and innovative solutions. The goals of this proposal include: (1) establishing integrated networks of information regarding water supplies, quality, uses, and infrastructure; (2) creating tools for water resource planning, decision-making, and adaptive governance that consider political economy, cultural constraints, and the differential value of water across sectors of society; (3) developing and applying new tools and products to address and reverse threats to water quality and repair imbalances in the water-food-energy nexus. Achieving these goals will be enabled by IU’s computing resources, which will support: holistic, integrated watershed models using high performance computing; a water resources ontology (language) for communication among interdisciplinary researchers and stakeholders; educational applications for smart devices that promote water literacy; and a web service for interaction with the public. Throughout the project, research will first be focused locally, ensuring early benefits for the state of Indiana, with potential for adaptation to national and global applications.

Contact:

  • Todd Royer (School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUB)
Transforming Environmental Protection and Health for Indiana and Beyond

Joseph Shaw, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington.

This Grand Challenge initiative will create a healthier environment for the people of Indiana and beyond by translating 21st century research about chemicals, their movement and impact on the environment and human health into profound breakthroughs in knowledge for effective governance, responsible innovation, and economic growth.

The people of Indiana and across the globe depend on a healthy environment. Yet an almost complete lack of knowledge of the biological effects of most of the tens of thousands of chemicals used to manufacture consumer goods challenges the preservation of a basic human right to a clean and healthy environment. At the same time this lack of knowledge of chemical effects cost an industrial sector, vital to the economy of Indiana and a significant contributor to the worldwide market, an estimated 3% of global GDP. To address this Grand Challenge we propose to: (1) engineer new instruments and sensors to better measure chemicals in complex environments; (2) produce comprehensive, timely and useful data on the transport and fate of chemicals in the environment to provide realistic estimates of chemical exposure; (3) design high throughput, molecular assays to rapidly and cheaply acquire toxicity data, and develop knowledge-bases and novel informatics approaches to rapidly predict the toxicological consequences of chemicals; (4) make use of this data to better characterize how the environment induces molecular change and regulates fundamental biological processes; (5) develop new paradigms for assessing risk to humans and the environment that incorporate more data rich estimates of chemical exposures and robust measures of their effects; and (6) enable the translation of new knowledge for improved governance, responsible innovation, and economic growth. These research advances will ultimately promote public well-being, and stimulate the economy and job creation for a global market that values a healthier environment.

Contact:

  • Joseph Shaw (School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUB)
Precision Health Initiative

Anantha Shekhar, associate vice president for clinical affairs at IU and executive associate dean for research at the IU School of Medicine on the IUPUI campus.

The Precision Health Initiative (PHI) is the grand challenge proposal from IUSM with three scientific pillars—genomic medicine, cell based therapies, and chemical biology—along with three cross-cutting initiatives of informatics, education programs, and a precision health patient cohort.

Precision Health, ‘the science and practice of medicine through a more precise definition of the molecular, behavioral and environmental factors that contribute to an individual’s health and disease’ is expected to transform biomedical research, health care innovations and the delivery of health interventions in the future. Therefore, IUSM has chosen the Precision Health Initiative (PHI) as its Grand Challenge proposal. This field will become a major focus of Federal funding of research and an essential need to provide the best health care for the people of Indiana, making this a compelling topic for IUSM. The PHI proposal will have three major pillars—genomic medicine, cell based therapies, and chemical biology—along with three cross-cutting initiatives that include informatics and computational sciences, new educational and degree programs, and a comprehensively-characterized Precision Health Cohort. When fully implemented, the PHI will be delivering access to precision health advances to nearly two million patients across Indiana and hire over fifty new research faculty hires in precision health. It will be foundational for our strategic goals of doubling IUSM’s research funding and raising our NIH ranking to the top 25 schools and creating strategic partnerships with Eli Lilly, Roche Diagnostics, and Cook Industries. Through its innovative education and degree programs, IU will also be creating the scientific workforce of the future for Indiana and beyond.

Contact: