Joint venture with Texas A&M to advance disease treatment

By Staff

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will work collaboratively with the Texas A&M Health Science Center in the areas of bioenergetics, immunology and cell life, according to a memorandum of understanding between the two schools announced last week.

Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health affairs for The Texas A&M University System, and Pam Shockley-Zalabak, Ph.D., chancellor, UCCS, signed the memorandum of understanding that will promote collaborative research between the two institutions. Through the activities, the universities intend to advance the scientific study and understanding of cell metabolism, cell communication, and programmed cell death that is central to the treatment and cure of such diseases as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease and others.

"I am pleased to collaborate with such a significant research institution as the Texas A&M Health Science Center to unlock the mysteries of illnesses that affect every segment of society," Shockley-Zalabak said. "By joining forces, I believe our efforts will be stronger."

UCCS has established the CU Institute of Bioenergetics and Immunology to support a multidisciplinary approach to understanding cellular metabolism (choice of fuel, energy production, storage and consumption) and cellular communication. The HSC College of Medicine has established a multidisciplinary research program in its department of surgery that will study programmed cell death.

M. Karen Newell, Ph.D., formerly the Markert Professor of Biology at UCCS and director of the CU Institute of Bioenergetics, has joined the faculty at the HSC-College of Medicine, where she will hold the Raleigh R. White Endowed Chair in Surgical Research at Scott & White and lead the programmed cell death research program. Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, Newell will continue to provide guidance and scientific direction to the CU Institute of Bioenergetics and Immunology and will advise on future UCCS investment in the institute. Newell also will guide the collaborative activities of the two institutions. Under Newell's leadership, the universities' collaborative activities may include sharing faculty research expertise, laboratory space, equipment, administrative support and financial resources.

"It's an honor to be able to coordinate research efforts with two such highly respected institutions," Newell said. "CU has a deep understanding of how this technology regarding cell metabolism and treatments for autoimmune diseases was developed, where it is headed and the benefits it will deliver. My new colleagues at the Texas A&M Health Science Center will contribute fresh insight and expertise. This partnership is the best possible way to ensure that these initiatives move forward successfully and that the technologies reach their full potential."

Viral Genetics Inc. has entered into license agreements for discoveries resulting from Newell's work at CU. Haig Keledjian, president of Viral Genetics, said of the newly formed collaboration, "We now have the resources of two leading universities behind our research team. This joint effort will provide Dr. Newell's very important work with the support it deserves. Since we licensed Dr. Newell's technology years ago, we have witnessed many breakthroughs. With her extraordinary ability, we have very high hopes of developing treatments for the multiple diseases she is working on. We are 100 percent behind Dr. Newell and this collaboration that offers increased hope for people with many debilitating and life-threatening diseases."

Keledjian also announced Viral Genetics' intention to establish a physical presence in Colorado Springs and Georgetown, Texas, to support the continued collaborative and individual research efforts of the two institutions.