The University of Florida (UF) is providing nearly $11 million for a program enhancing access to cancer screenings, a center for advancing cell and gene therapies, an AI learning platform for mathematics and a digital humanities lab as part of its third round of strategic funding.
UF President Ben Sasse announced the latest round of $10.9 million in funding, saying the initiative is designed to advance interdisciplinary scholarship and enhance student experience.
“These exceptional initiatives will not only elevate UF’s standing as a national research leader but also transform lives here in Florida and around the world,” Sasse said. “UF continues to put this strategic funding to excellent use. We are facing and solving some of the biggest problems of our generation through the kind of interdisciplinary, collaborative work that will change lives for years to come.”
The funding is part of an initiative Sasse launched after the state Legislature allocated $130 million in new funding to the school. Sasse said more than half of those funds would be used for special strategic projects. Of the available funding, $24 million was made available to Deans for strategic uses, which they must pitch before being awarded, and $50 million was made available across all UF colleges and administrative units.
The school received more than 250 submissions, with 36 of the proposals selected so far through three rounds of funding. A final round of funding will be announced at a later, undisclosed date.
The first 19 proposals were awarded $13.4 million in October, with another $5.4 million awarded for seven proposals last month.
UF has used feasibility studies to determine awards.
The latest round of 10 proposals receiving funding include:
— College of Medicine: $1.5 million over three years to support the development of a new center, the first of its kind in the Southeastern U.S., to help bring novel treatments in advanced cell and gene therapies to market.
— UF Health Cancer Center: $1.5 million over one year to expand breast cancer screening in North Central Florida by utilizing the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement to bring a mobile mammography unit to underserved communities.
— College of Education: $930,000 over three years for SALT-Math, or Scalable AI-Augmented Learning by Teaching for Math Education.
— College of Education: $330,000 over three years for UF Stars: Illuminating Pathways for Undergraduate Research and Innovation, an initiative that pairs undergraduates with faculty for research opportunities and is expected to increase the number of University Scholars Program applicants, grow participation in the College of Education Research Symposium, support graduate assistantships, and reward excellence in faculty mentorship.
— College of Public Health & Health Professions: $480,000 over three years for AI applications to pediatric neuromedicine to expand investment into AI, neuromedicine and imaging to develop assessments to enhance quality of life for those with neuromuscular disease.
— McKnight Brain Institute: $1 million over one year for the Transforming Stroke Care collaborative research project that aims to help UF stroke clinicians, clinical investigators, and others create training pathways for UF students to become stroke AI researchers.
— College of Medicine: $2 million over one year to develop the physical and digital infrastructure for an Intelligent Virtual Hospital, which would serve as a place for health care providers and patients to virtually gather with access to extended reality and Web3 applications such as blockchain.
— College of Liberal Arts: $632,000 over four years for the Digital Humanities Lab, which will offer coursework, experiential learning and professional development opportunities for students and faculty.
— College of Medicine-Jacksonville: $500,000 over one year for the creation of the Precision Autism Center of Excellence, which will expand the clinical capacity for the diagnostic evaluation, management and treatment of those with neurodevelopmental disorders.
— Information Technology: $2 million over one year to help create a team of research software engineers to use existing infrastructures to utilize technically advanced tasks for funded research projects.
“As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the UF Health Cancer Center is charged with addressing the burden of cancer in the large area we serve, with a strong focus on rural and aging populations,” said Dr. Jonathan Licht, the director of the UF Health Cancer Center.
“Our goal is to reduce the burden of late-stage cancer diagnoses and mortality through early detection and personalized services that help people access the treatment they need.”
Jennifer Bizon, the Director of the McKnight Brain Institute, said the funding will help her team build its multidisciplinary research efforts related to stroke prevention and treatment.
“This project, under Dr. Brian Hoh’s leadership, exemplifies our mission to build research collaborations among clinical and basic science investigators across our UF and UF Health campuses that will improve outcomes and change lives,” Bizon said.
Beth Virnig, the Dean of the College of Public Health & Health Professions, also issued remarks regarding funding for AI applications to pediatric neuromedicine.
“This will lead to more effective treatments for devastating disorders that contribute to lifelong disabilities,” Virnig said. “The project brings together a powerhouse of UF expertise in magnetic resonance imaging, neuromuscular disease, physiology, and AI — to bring about real-world improvements in health outcomes and quality of life for children with muscular dystrophy and their families.”
Other top-level faculty also weighed in:
— Dr. Colleen Koch, Dean of the College of Medicine regarding funding for an Intelligent Virtual Hospital: “This will enable the creation of a groundbreaking Intelligent Virtual Hospital and a regional center for the development of advanced therapeutics, both of which will have a transformative impact in Florida and across the region.”
— Dr. Barry Byrne, Director of the Powell Gene Therapy Center: “The opportunity to develop transformative cell and gene therapy products for severe medical conditions will continue to position UF as an international leader in the new discipline of genetic medicine. We are grateful for the support of the strategic funding award to advance these innovative faculty ideas across the academic health center and to train the next generation of clinician-scientists in advanced therapeutics.”
— Elias Eldayrie regarding campus-wide AI initiatives: “President Sasse’s strategic investment in research will transform how UF faculty envision the application of use-inspired AI spanning all disciplines.”
— Dr. Linda Edwards, Dean of the College of Medicine Jacksonville, regarding funding to enhance autism research: “We are thrilled to be receiving this opportunity to provide additional support to individuals with autism. As the number of children born with autism and related disorders continues to rise, our capacity to diagnose and offer treatment has been stretched. Even after diagnosis, access to needed services often gets delayed. Knowing that the center will enhance our capacity to offer care adds hope and excitement for the future.”
— David Richardson, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: “We are now in a knowledge and technology revolution that is transforming higher education and the global economy. Every liberal arts discipline is redefining its methods and asking new research questions, and the humanities are no exception. In this facility, historians, philosophers, and literary scholars will collaborate with engineers and scientists in exciting, new ways.”
— Glenn Good, Dean of the College of Education, regarding funding for SALT-Math and UF Stars: “As evidenced by these projects, faculty and students at the college continue to make incredible strides in translating research into practice. This alignment of efforts across the university will prove to be transformative, unlocking benefits that will strengthen our society.”