UCCS still benefits as researcher leaves for Texas A&M

WAYNE HEILMAN Updated: April 13, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: April 13, 2010

A top research faculty member at the University of Colorado Springs working on treatments for cancer, HIV and other autoimmune diseases has moved to Texas A&M University to gain access to a $3 billion state-funded cancer research fund.

Karen Newell, who had been the Merkert Professor of Biology and director of the UCCS Institute of Bioenergetics, will continue to oversee the research effort at UCCS, which retains the patent rights to compounds and therapies developed by her research. Her move to Texas A&M’s Health Science Center resulted in a new agreement with UCCS that could generate millions in additional funding for that research, UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said Monday.

“This is a good deal for us,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “Karen will continue to direct the scientific work here and the current staffing at the institute will remain in place. We do expect to add people from private grant funds. (The partnership) gives us horsepower to expand our ability to win grants. She has been a catalyst for excellent work and we expect that to grow with the Texas A&M partnership.”

Newell will head the newly formed Center for Programmed Cell Death and hold the Raleigh R. White Endowed Chair in Surgical Research at the Scott & White Healthcare System, a network of nine hospitals and 60 clinics affiliated with the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Her five-year agreement with the school and health system is valued at more than $2 million and includes another faculty post, several post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and technicians.

“I love Colorado Springs and UCCS, but I knew to drive this research into the clinic I needed to be in a clinical setting and there are lots of opportunities in Texas,” said Newell, who is a Texas native. “I wanted to continue the program in both locations and setting up the collaboration between UCCS and the Texas A&M Health Science Center will allow that to happen. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”

Dr. Roy Smythe, chairman of the surgery department at Scott & White and a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, said Newell will head a group of physician researchers working on bioenergetics, immunology and cell life. He said the school targeted Newell in an effort to be more competitive to win grants from the $3 billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Newell said the agreement between UCCS and Texas A&M will allow the Institute for Bioenergetics to grow exponentially and could help it attract additional faculty members to UCCS to be involved in research that stems from the partnership between the schools. She said she plans to apply for funds from the Texas cancer research fund that she believes will draw additional private funding to help get drug therapies from her research into clinical trials.

Viral Genetics, a small California-based company that has licensed much of the results of Newell’s research, plans to establish locations in both Colorado Springs and Georgetown, Texas, to support her research efforts and gain federal approval for the trials.

Contact the writer at 636-0234.

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