The gift will establish two research faculty positions and support training to further translational research in cardiovascular diseases, neurosciences and mental health.
The Flinn Foundation has committed $5.5 million over five years to strengthen the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix's investment in translational research in cardiovascular diseases, neurosciences and mental health. The gift also will support pipeline training and education, as well as innovative research and development.
"The College of Medicine – Phoenix is grateful to the Flinn Foundation for this remarkable gift. We are excited to expand our long-standing collaboration and shared goals of investing in innovations that help build healthy communities," said Guy Reed, dean of the College of Medicine – Phoenix. "This investment in translational research will help us discover the cause of illness and develop tangible solutions that improve health."
As part of its strategic plan, the college prioritized translational research in cardiovascular diseases, neurosciences and mental health to better serve the clinical needs of communities in Arizona.
The gift will support the multimillion-dollar commitment made by the College of Medicine – Phoenix to develop the Translational Cardiovascular Research Center and a new Department of Translational Neurosciences.
"This grant, one of the largest in the Flinn Foundation's history, will create momentum for translational research and entrepreneurship at the College of Medicine – Phoenix and lead to a stronger bioscience research ecosystem and health care sector in Arizona," said Tammy McLeod, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation. "We recognize the continued growth of the College of Medicine – Phoenix, and its recruitment of diverse scientists, clinicians and students, is critical to improving patient care and spurring economic development."
The gift also will support two research faculty positions, one in the Translational Cardiovascular Research Center and one in the Department of Translational Neurosciences. National searches will recruit investigators with significant experience in translating research findings toward the clinical development of therapeutics to treat cardiovascular disease, stroke and serious mental illness.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, as well as most racial and ethnic groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cardiovascular disease causes 1 out of every 4 deaths, killing roughly 659,000 Americans per year.
The CDC estimates more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. Serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, affects 1 in 25 Americans.
Combatting such serious and prevalent health risks requires a comprehensive approach. The College of Medicine – Phoenix will leverage the expertise of its researchers and clinicians, as well as experts from its nine clinical partners.
The gift from the Flinn Foundation will allow UArizona researchers to partner with clinical research leaders at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, the VA Phoenix Health Care System and Phoenix Children's to develop new solutions for unmet medical needs.
"The Flinn Foundation has made an incredible impact on Arizona communities throughout its history," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "We are proud of our longstanding partnership, proud of the many Flinn Scholars who have come through the University of Arizona, and deeply proud to steward this new, visionary investment in research and entrepreneurship at the College of Medicine – Phoenix."
Areas of focus for the two centers and department include enhancing the research workforce by fostering research development and entrepreneurialism. A collaboration with the Arizona Center for Drug Development in the UArizona R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy has been established to facilitate the discovery of new drugs.
Funds also are targeted for the development of a Center for Biotech Research Development and Entrepreneurialism, a collaborative program that will be located at the Phoenix Bioscience Core. The center will provide education, mentorship and other resources to foster a culture of entrepreneurialism and aid the process of taking research discoveries to market in the form of products and solutions that address unmet health needs.
"The Flinn Foundation's investment in the College of Medicine – Phoenix will continue to elevate the city's growing reputation as a hub for biomedical innovation and collaboration," said Michael D. Dake, senior vice president for health sciences at UArizona. "By increasing the tempo of translating research into real-world solutions, we can more quickly expand access to quality health care for everyone, which is a priority at the University of Arizona Health Sciences."
Although cardiovascular disease and serious mental illnesses affect a large portion of the population, they disproportionately affect certain minority groups. The likelihood of developing these conditions may be influenced by a patient's sex and socioeconomic status, among other factors. Investigators from the college believe the quality of research is enhanced by diversity of thought and experience. Central to the goal of building healthier communities is the need for diverse representation.
"Science is the discipline that informs and advances medicine, so that we may all have the opportunity to live longer and better lives," Reed said.
Not only will the centers and the department increase the diversity of scientists and physicians who contribute to the research, they will also provide opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds. A portion of the Flinn Foundation gift will fund summer internship for minority high school students to work with medical scientists and clinicians. The program will provide mentorship and guidance to help recruit talented students into careers in biomedical research and medicine.
"With this generous investment in the College of Medicine – Phoenix, the Flinn Foundation is helping us strengthen the bridge between the medical research we conduct and real-world solutions for the people of Arizona," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, a cardiothoracic surgeon. "With the additional focus on innovation and providing opportunities for high school students from underrepresented backgrounds, this gift aligns with two of the university's core values, exploration and inclusion."