Support for Chicago Biomedical Consortium renewed

The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust has renewed its funding commitment to the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC), an innovative research and education collaboration of Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago that has helped establish the Chicago area as a leader in biomedical sciences.

The Searle Funds has pledged $21 million over five years, including $5 million for the first year, which began Jan. 1. This support will continue to stimulate the CBC’s multi-institutional, interdisciplinary collaborations for improving human health. During the prior decade of CBC Phase 1, many discoveries have been made in a wide array of biomedical fields.

“The CBC is an engine for innovation, powered by the brilliant faculty of three world-class institutions,” said Terry Mazany, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. “It is this level of innovation that will distinguish cities competitive in the 21st century.”

The CBC is launching an important second phase: a focus on fostering a culture of entrepreneurship among university researchers. New initiatives include a forum for academic and industry scientists to discuss commercialization ideas and a program supporting translational research projects with funding and early commercial guidance.

“In the past 10 years, the CBC has made remarkable strides,” said Renee Michaels, vice president of Kinship Foundation, a private operating foundation established to advance the Searle family’s institutional philanthropy. “We’re pleased to continue to support the CBC as it enters Phase 2, where it will apply the values of collaboration to strengthen connections within our biomedical ecosystem, build a stronger pipeline for discoveries to reach the marketplace and strengthen the entrepreneurial culture within the universities around life sciences.”

Michaels and Mazany delivered remarks at a Dec. 16 special event celebrating the Chicago Biomedical Consortium and the continued support of the Searle Funds. Members of the Searle family were instrumental in establishing the CBC and have supported the enterprise through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust since the CBC’s inception in 2006.

For 11 years, the CBC has enabled risk-taking discovery science, resulting in an increased understanding of the biology underlying an array of medical conditions, such as heart disease, autism, leukemia, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Areas of supported research include drug discovery, epigenetics, biomedical engineering, proteomics and systems biology.

“The success of the CBC demonstrates the power of biomedical collaboration among these three institutions, made possible by philanthropic support that has produced tangible benefits,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “It is an important commitment for our region and for continued innovation that is making an impact across many biomedical disciplines.”

New initiatives

With a strong foundation in place, the CBC now is poised to accelerate the translation of scientific discovery to clinical application and the development of therapeutics. This will help bolster the biotechnology community in the Chicago area.

The CBC’s two new accelerator programs will partner with existing programs at the three universities to help identify promising research for which a boost of advice and support may make a difference in timing and outcome.

The CBC Accelerator Network will regularly bring together academic and industry scientists to discuss ideas for commercialization and to educate entrepreneurial-minded researchers about market realities.

The CBC Accelerator Awards will support translational research and provide university researchers with early commercial guidance. The awards will be used to support the initial—and therefore highest-risk—stage of commercially directed research. Industry experts will participate in the merit-based selection of projects.

Also new is the CBC Entrepreneurial Postdoctoral Fellowship program. It will identify and support a cohort of young researchers interested in working in the biotech startup space of Chicago.

“I am extremely appreciative of the support from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust to advance biomedical research across our three universities,” said Lucy A Godley, professor in medicine and the CBC scientific director at the University of Chicago. “I am excited to work with my co-scientific directors Rick Morimoto and Brian Kay, Katie Stallcup and the entire CBC staff, as well as our incredibly talented faculty to realize the vision of expanding the focus of our work within the CBC in the upcoming Phase 2 projects.”