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University of Arizona putting $152M toward cutting-edge medical research

A rendering of the UA's Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies, which is expected to open in Phoenix by 2025.

The University of Arizona made a big stride toward its goal to spend $1 billion on research and development by 2025 this week.

On Wednesday, the university — whose research expenditures already ranks it among the highest in the nation for a public institution — announced that Gov. Doug Ducey has designated $150 million in funding for the UA Health Sciences’ new Phoenix-based Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies.

The Steele Foundation, an Arizona-based charitable foundation, also earmarked an additional $2 million for the center as part of a larger $10 million philanthropic donation to the university.

Dr. Michael Dake, senior vice president for the University of Arizona Health Sciences, describes the UA's vision for developing cutting-edge immunotherapy research.

Research at the new center will focus on the immunology of cancers, autoimmune conditions and infectious diseases. Having more specific, nuanced information about these afflictions will also allow the center to be at the forefront of advancing precision medicine. Instead of using the same treatments for all patients, precision medicine is a newer approach that accounts for an individual patient’s genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors in building their treatment plan.

“There is not a field with more explosive growth than immunotherapy. We are seeing rapid growth in research investments and increased formation of academic and industry partnerships around the world,” Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president for the University of Arizona Health Sciences, said in a news release. “CAMI will open new doors of discovery and advance precision medicine to improve health and human potential for people across Arizona and around the world.”

The center is still in the early stages of development. In 2024, it’s expected to temporarily open on the second floor of the Biomedical Sciences Partnership building on the campus of the UA’s medical school in Phoenix. The permanent home for the center is expected to open in 2025 and will be located in downtown Phoenix within the Phoenix Bioscience Core, which is a city-led initiative aimed at bringing education and bioresearch to the area.

Moreover, the UA anticipates that basing the center in Phoenix will build partnerships with other nearby research institutions including, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, the Mayo Clinic and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

The center’s research will address both adult and pediatric medicine.

Using the UA’s existing expertise in basic science, translational medicine and investigator-initiated clinical trials, the center will focus on growing immunotherapies research in cancers, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and real-time immune system monitoring. The Steele Foundation’s $2 million gift is specifically geared toward advancing research in autoimmune diseases that affect children, like Type 1 diabetes, juvenile arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease.

Marianne Cracchiolo Mago, president and CEO of the Steele Foundation, said the center’s proposed mission inspired the foundation to be the first to make a donation. “It’s compelling to have pediatric and adult researchers collaborating under one roof and feels like a huge opportunity for CAMI to become a national model in research and discovery,” Cracchiolo Mago said.

And beyond the obvious benefit of developing better treatments for serious illnesses, the center’s opening in downtown Phoenix is also expected to enhance economic growth. An economic analysis report prepared by Tempe-based Rounds Consulting group estimated that within 10 years of opening, the center could attract more than 150 companies to greater Phoenix, and in-turn create some 7,500 new bioscience-related jobs and 13,000 supporting jobs.

Ducey, whose outgoing administration has prioritized economic development across the state, characterized the center as a rare opportunity that will benefit Arizonans in many different aspects.

“As it grows, CAMI is poised to bring new jobs and businesses to Arizona, bolstering the economy not only in Maricopa County, but also across the state,” Ducey said. “More importantly, the research CAMI will advance and bring to fruition offers Arizona residents the hope of new treatments that will positively impact their health and well-being.”

Kathryn Palmer covers higher education for the Arizona Daily Star. Contact her via e-mail at kpalmer@tucson.com or her new phone number, 520-496-9010.


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Higher education reporter

Kathryn Palmer covers higher education for the Arizona Daily Star. Contact her via e-mail at kpalmer@tucson.com or at her new phone number, 520-496-9010.

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