Precision Health tackles childhood cancer, provides hope

Grand Challenge: Precision Health Initiative

Through donation of his tumor tissue and his indomitable spirit, cancer patient Tyler Trent, who died on Jan. 1, 2019, became a great advocate for IU’s precision health research.

Tyler Trent, Research Advocate and IU Precision Health Patient

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Jamie Renbarger: We saw Tyler at the time of his initial relapse of his osteosarcoma in May of 2017. We saw him as part of the Precision Genomics Program, and through that clinical consult, we did clinical sequencing, as well as research based sequencing, of his tumor as well as of his own DNA from his blood to try to understand what was driving his tumor to grow at that time.

Jamie Renbarger: That facilitated our selecting four medications, traditional cytotoxic chemotherapy really in combination with novel, small molecule, targeted inhibitors that we felt together in combination would be safe and potentially effective at either stopping or slowing down tumor growth.

Tyler Trent: Yeah, I know. I tell people that without the research that's been done I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be able to speak to you. I know because the genomic testing that was done on my tumor, you know those drugs that were found basically prolonged my life.

Jamie Renbarger: So one of the challenges that we face in pediatrics is that the number of tumor models, particularly from relapsed, solid tumors, are very few, few and far between, and in order for us to have laboratory models to study, not just upfront cancer but specifically the bad actors that come back, we have to have models in the lab to able to study those.

Jamie Renbarger: And so, again, one of the really amazing things and very unique things about the samples and models that we were able to collect and develop from Tyler is that we not only have a sample from the time of his relapse prior to relapse chemotherapy, but also from after he got chemotherapy. So we can understand what we call the tumor adaptive response, how it changes after exposure to chemotherapy, and also have both of those models to study in the laboratory.

Tyler Trent: As people continue to be diagnosed, that will prolong other kids lives as well. And hopefully because of that, that those kids will basically become advocates for research. That they would be able to prolong other kids lives and that they become a snowball effect. And that we’d be able to prolong hundreds of thousands of kids lives.

IU issues Request for Proposals

IU is pleased to announce a new internal request for proposals for project funding starting July 2019 through the IU Grand Challenge initiative "Prepared for Environmental Change".

Letters of intent are due Wednesday, December 5, 2018, and full proposals are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, January 14, 2019.

IU launches the Environmental Resilience Institute Toolkit

Climate change is not just about the future. The Environmental Resilience Institute, part of IU’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge, announces ERIT, the ERI Toolkit, a tool to assess risk, prepare for the future, and respond to today’s problems.

Learn more about ERIT
Introducing ERIT - the Environmental Resilience Institute Toolkit for local government leaders.

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Our world is changing. Temperatures are rising. Diseases are spreading. Severe weather is harming our infrastructure and our crops. And in the face of these environmental threats, we must protect Indiana jobs, our economy, and our communities.

Built by experts at Indiana University alongside local municipalities and the EPA, the Environmental Resilience Institute Toolkit (or ERIT) is an online resource designed to help local governments in Indiana and other Midwestern states assess, prepare for, and respond to environmental change.

ERIT provides tailored information to Hoosier communities facing increased threats from flooding, air pollution, heat waves, and disease. Updated regularly, ERIT helps state and local leaders combat the effects of climate change on our communities, our health and our jobs.

As ERIT’s database expands, so will its impact. Detailed case studies provide road maps for how other communities have successfully adapted to climate risks… highlighting tools needed to replicate their successes and secure funding.

Indiana and the Midwest face a unique set of environmental concerns. But by working together to create, manage and implement resources like ERIT, our communities and businesses can have a more resilient future. Learn more at

Exhaustive research and reporting have detailed the scope of substance abuse in Indiana. The evidence is clear: addiction in Indiana is an urgent problem.

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What does it mean to be a Hoosier? What does it mean to call Indiana “home?” It means working hard. Playing harder. And always lending a hand when help is needed. And at this moment, help is needed more than ever. Our state and our way of life are at risk. Beset on all sides by an invisible, but deadly, force: Addiction. It’s damaging our families and eroding the foundations of our communities. But there is hope. Because we’re Hoosiers. And we’re fighting back. In collaboration with the State of Indiana, business and community partners, Indiana University launched the Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge initiative in 2017. It’s a $50 million multi-faceted plan with a single goal: To take back our communities. And to do it together. With sixteen projects already underway, we’re tackling the addiction problem with our best resources and brightest minds. Like Emily Scott, an Indiana University physician and researcher who is leading the battle against Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome—a condition that afflicts babies exposed to drugs in the womb. Scott is working directly with mothers to give babies born with NAS a chance for a better life. Indiana University scientists are working to uncover the underlying mechanisms of addiction. The more we know about how it affects the brain, the more effectively we can treat it. We’re also arming our hardest-hit communities with the tools to fight back. Naloxone training programs, education and outreach efforts are helping healthcare workers and law enforcement officers serve their communities—and save lives. Across the state, we’re working with judges, law enforcement, health care providers, community health workers serving as lay recovery coaches, and municipalities to inform and develop new approaches to this mounting epidemic. We’ve done a lot already. And we’re just getting started. Working together, we’re making strides every day. Along the way, we’ll evaluate our progress and make adjustments where necessary. Because failure is not an option. We won’t stop until we’ve restored hope to Indiana communities. Because helping our fellow Hoosiers… is our number one priority.

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Crippled by addiction

Hundreds of hospital visits a month. Ten fatal overdoses every week. Heroin and prescription opioids are wreaking havoc on Hoosier communities — and it’s only getting worse. We can mitigate this epidemic by curbing the flow of opioids and helping addicts and their families get the treatment and support they desperately need.

A critical response to an escalating crisis

Facing mounting evidence of a growing addictions crisis, the Governor’s office published a strategic plan, calling upon leaders from around our state to take up the mantle—starting at the community level. In response, Indiana University is launching a statewide effort as part of its Grand Challenges program. To be implemented across IU’s seven campuses and in partnership with Governor Eric J. Holcomb, state officials, IU Health and Eskenazi Health, this initiative will be one of the largest and most comprehensive state-based responses to the opioid addiction crisis, and the largest led by a university. The initiative will engage the full strength of IU’s world-class faculty and its industry, non-profit and government partners to address addictions in Indiana.

Hoosier communities are in jeopardy. The addiction epidemic is a very real threat to the wellbeing of our families, businesses, and our state’s social services and health care systems. Only together can we create and implement community-centric policies that will help alleviate this epidemic and help recovering addicts again become productive citizens of our state.

Jim McClelland, Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement, State of Indiana

About Grand Challenges

Responding to the Addictions Crisis is the newest initiative of Indiana University’s Grand Challenges program aimed at solving some of the most difficult challenges facing Indiana.

We’re tackling large-scale, complex problems that require collaboration across disciplines, industries, and communities. Our success will be measured by the tangible impact our programs have on the lives of Hoosiers. This bold initiative is the culmination of committed partnerships and dedicated research teams working together to solve some of the largest and most pressing problems Hoosiers face today.

Supporting Grand Challenges

If you would like to contribute to the Grand Challenges Program, please consider a donation to the Grand Challenges Fund which supports initiatives, including but not limited to, Responding to the Addictions Crisis, Prepared for Environmental Change, and Precision Health.

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