Under the leadership of John Cambier, PhD, Andrew Fontenot, MD, and Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, the University of Colorado School of Medicine will fund a new Center for Human Immune Innovation (CHII), an interdisciplinary program aimed at enhancing CU research in the emerging field of immune therapies. The Center is one of five proposals selected to receive Transformational Research Funding, with the overall commitment equaling approximately $80 million, announced Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, in his annual State of the School Address.

“Transformational research funding will support the recruitment of faculty and the development of infrastructure needed to make Colorado a leader in the discovery and testing of immune therapies against cancer and auto-immune conditions,” says Theodorescu.

In its use against cancer, immune therapies recruit the body’s immune system to combat tumor tissue. After decades of basic research, in 2013 SCIENCE magazine heralded cancer immunotherapy as its “Breakthrough of the Year”. Today, successful immunotherapies are controlling many forms of the disease, for example in the case of Former President Jimmy Carter.

A recent faculty survey identified immunology research and clinical testing of immunotherapies as a major area of potential growth for the University.

“Right now we’re sending patients from our hospitals to be treated with immunotherapies elsewhere and sending our immunology research to be processed elsewhere, resulting in at least $3 million per year in lost revenue. The goal of the CHII is to change this situation,” Theodorescu says.

There were 39 applications for Translational Research Funding. The prestigious external selection committee planned to fund four of these proposals. Due to outstanding applications, the committee chose to fund five. Other funded projects include focus on fibrosis, RNA biology, data sciences, and gastrointestinal immune function.

“Our vision for the future of this shared resource is to become a self-sustaining facility that integrates the expertise of immunologists and clinicians facilitating the Anschutz Medical Campus to become competitive as a site for immune-related clinical trials that are on the forefront of medical research,” Theodorescu says.