IU Indianapolis eager to achieve top-tier research status

Indiana University building on Michigan Street in Indianapolis. (Photo by Eric Learned at IBJ)

Source: Indianapolis Business Journal

Indiana University Indianapolis is less than three months from its formal debut on July 1, and the institution’s leaders say they are confident the school will quickly establish itself as a top U.S. urban research university. Some experts caution that the process will take time.

The ambitious goal, which has been touted widely by all sorts of Hoosiers—from campus faculty to IU President Pamela Whitten and Gov. Eric Holcomb—is really a two-part process.

Part 1 won’t involve any effort on the part of IU Indianapolis. The ranking system used to categorize research universities is changing in a way that will move the school into the highest tier. Part 2—building the university’s reputation as a research powerhouse—will be tough but is a goal experts told IBJ is within reach.

Industry interests

Vince Wong is CEO of Indianapolis-based BioCrossroads, another organization under CICP’s umbrella; it supports the state’s life sciences industry. He said IU Indianapolis can succeed in making the city a research capital—but it will take time, resources and focus.

“I often get this question of whether Indianapolis can be the next Boston, but my perspective is that we don’t need to be the next Boston or San Diego,” he said.

Instead, Wong said IU Indianapolis should lean into five niches where it is already seeing success: metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity; orthopedic and medical devices; radiopharmaceuticals, which can target specific organs’ tissues and cells; neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; and contract research and manufacturing, which focuses on helping pharmaceutical companies achieve their goals.

“We already have existing assets to leverage and build upon, and [we can] make ourselves into the epicenter for those growing areas of research and medicine,” Wong said. “That would be in and of itself a worthy objective for IU to be focused on.”

IUPUI’s Corso said IU Indianapolis will pursue many of those areas in coming years.

“If we start with that as our base, then we can say, ‘What does the future of research look like in these areas? What are we missing? And what’s the next step?’” she said.

Melina Kennedy, CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, said IU Indianapolis will be “ripe” for more research opportunities and can further its cause by building partnerships and capitalizing on its proximity to the 16 Tech Innovation District, which sits across Fall Creek from campus.

IU Indianapolis won’t be the only college in the city expanding its research efforts. Purdue University plans to make its Indianapolis operations an extension of its main West Lafayette campus, instead of creating a separate Purdue branch in Indianapolis. That will extend Purdue’s R1 research status to Indianapolis.

“There’s a lot of reasons to be very bullish and optimistic here in Indianapolis about the future of research, with the presence of IU Indianapolis and the Purdue extension as well,” Kennedy said. “The split is really an incredible step in the direction of even more recognition, talent attraction, research and innovation right here. It’s really an exciting time.”

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, headquartered at 16 Tech, expects to partner with IU Indianapolis on projects. Even so, leaders said building up the school’s research infrastructure to make it competitive in certain areas could take a while.

“I believe this ambitious goal is truly possible; however, it will take several years and unwavering leadership and resource commitment to make it happen,” Alan Palkowitz told IBJ in emailed comments.

Palkowitz, who joined IBRI in 2020 after more than 30 years in pharmaceutical discovery and development, said the school’s research success will depend on its willingness to embrace the city’s “evolving research and entrepreneurial environment” as well as partnerships outside the educational ecosystem.

He said the institute envisions “significant opportunity for expanded scientific collaboration” and potential commercialization with IU Indianapolis.

To read the full article, go to the Indianapolis Business Journal (subscription required).