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UT Health Science Center researchers awarded $20 million to develop new radiopharmaceutical cancer therapies

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | February 22, 2024 Molecular Imaging Rad Oncology
UT Health Science Center researchers Gabor Tigyi, MD, PhD, Harriet Van Vleet Endowment Professor in Basic Oncology Research, Junming Yue, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pathology, Sue Chin Lee, PhD, in the Department of Physiology, and David Schwartz, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, are part of a scientific leadership group awarded $20 million from the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to develop new radiopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer.

The grant is the first to UT Health Science Center investigators in collaboration with ORNL and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "We are most grateful to Tennessee's legislature and to our UT President Randy Boyd for supporting UT-ORII and enabling the funding for this exciting cancer initiative, which is good news for our overall research effort, for our cancer research program, and for the people of Tennessee,” said Peter Buckley, MD, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “We are building a bridge to work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT Knoxville, as part of a bigger effort of collaboration across the UT System. The ultimate goal is to help the citizens we serve.”

This collaborative project was seeded by the D3 – Drug Discovery and Development Initiative in 2020 by Steve Goodman, PhD, former vice chancellor for Research at UT Health Science Center, and Martha Head, PhD, formerly at ORNL. UT-ORII selected the radiopharmaceutical cancer therapeutics program and also a bioeconomy systems project as its new Convergent Research Initiatives (CRIs), areas of joint research for UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Over the next five years, UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will invest $40 million—$20 million per initiative—and work jointly to accelerate world-leading innovation and establish UT and ORNL as national leaders in these areas.
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“These two new Convergent Research Initiatives, along with an additional CRI next year will bring more than 100 new UT and ORNL researchers together across our state to tackle some of our nation’s biggest challenges, while also bringing in new funds to Tennessee,” President Boyd said. “That means more opportunities for graduate students and more opportunities for Tennesseans.”

The new CRIs were chosen from 54 proposals submitted by UT and ORNL joint research teams. “There was an outstanding response to the call for proposals from ORNL and UT researchers,” said David Sholl, UT-ORII’s interim executive director. “We had 54 teams of ORNL and UT researchers come together and say, ‘We have a big idea. We’re ready to work together.’ That’s powerful and demonstrates the tremendous potential we have to solve some of our nation’s toughest problems and make a huge impact across the state and around the world, when we combine our resources.”

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