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Expanding partnerships with the world

Interdisciplinary research drives effort to meet major global challenges

Discovery Park has become a window to the world, capturing the attention of researchers, government officials and industrial leaders from across the globe to take a closer look at Purdue's innovative model for advancing interdisciplinary research.

"We've become a driver for global change at Purdue," says Pankaj Sharma, associate director of operations and international affairs for Discovery Park. "At Discovery Park, people don't take minutes. They take notes. Why? Because Discovery Park's leading researchers and staff are prepared to change direction in a moment to match speed of change in an increasingly global world."

Purdue's success in establishing partnerships and gaining funding at the national and international level for large-scale interdisciplinary research through Discovery Park is helping confirm just how flat the world actually is. With its lineup of leading researchers and unique laboratories and facilities, Discovery Park weekly entertains delegations from across the country and even the world.

Because of its modern equipment and completed facilities - specifically Birck Nanotechnology Center, Bindley Bioscience Center, Hall for Discovery and Learning Research, Mann Hall, and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship - private companies and organizations are calling to inquire how they too can gain an edge in a competitive global marketplace.

"Industrial and corporate partners across the globe are very interested in the research we can do for them in nanotechnology, energy, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, health-care engineering, cancer and other areas," says Mark Lundstrom, director of the Network for Computational Nanotechnology, a part of the Birck Nanotechnology Center.

Because of Discovery Park, Purdue now has strong ties with universities and institutions nationally and globally - specifically India, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Italy, China, Japan and Singapore.

The park also has entertained an India industrial delegation, academic leaders from Japan, a health-care contingent from China and Africa, nanotechnology and nanomedicine researchers from South Korea, Japan and Australia, a business group from Qatar, a graduate student group in biomedical engineering from South Korea, a nanotechnology research team from Russia, and a life sciences team from Canada.

"We have great partnerships with companies, with hospitals, with leading manufacturers, throughout the state and nation," says Candiss Vibbert, associate director of engagement at the park. "Discovery Park also is making huge inroads in reaching across the globe."

Partnering with Institutions, Corporations and Foundations

Many economic and cultural challenges facing countries like China, India and South Korea align closely with Discovery Park.

"Our innovative approach to research and global solutions is getting the attention of top executives of global corporations. They are drawn to the quality of the science and objective research that's possible here," says Cyber Center director Ahmed Elmagarmid. "We have the infrastructure here to engage and deliver with the international community."

Purdue centers also have formed strategic partnerships with companies such as Ascension Health, Boeing Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield Cos., Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., Infosys, Indiana Hospital Association, Satyam Computer Services Ltd., and Electronic Arts Inc.

President Córdova on her recent trip to India.

Purdue partners with U.S. Department of Homeland Security on visualization project.

Other international players such as IBM Corp., LSI Logic Corp., Sony Corp., and Raytheon Co. have contributed equipment to assist research - and to build relationships. Intel Corp. has donated nearly $15 million to Purdue in grants and equipment, and the computer chip manufacturer sponsors the Intel Fellowship to prepare graduate students and researchers for careers in technology-driven industries.

"Seven hundred Purdue graduates work at Intel today, and some of our more senior scientific talent comes from Purdue," says Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel and head of the National Academy of Engineering. "We support research activities, and we support fellowship for students here. So there's a very symbiotic relationship between our company and Purdue."

Creating Global Opportunities to Advance Learning and Research

Discovery Park's international message also is about learning. With the park's support, graduate students have attended international conferences on climate change, nanotechnology, energy, healthcare and other disciplines. Importantly, many students have worked as fellows alongside some of the world's brightest researchers through Discovery Park research efforts.

Graduate student Charlotte Kendra Castillo traveled to India in early 2008 as part of an agreement with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai and National Center for Biological Science in Bangalore. The program focused on research in malaria, cellular reorganization and neural network.

"Research communities are becoming more and more global in scope, thanks in part to the Internet, which helps us keep in touch and share knowledge," says Castillo, who is affiliated with the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. "We need to be informed, to communicate and to function well in a community that spans cultures and disciplines."

Discovery Park's success builds on Purdue's connections with respected alumni overseas as well as partnerships with private industry, government funding agencies, global foundations, and research institutions looking for innovative collaborators and access to state-of-the-art facilities.

"Discovery Park provides a holistic view of the problems facing our world to take advantage of the synergies here at Purdue with an eye toward economic development," says Gabriela Weaver, director of the Discovery Learning Research Center. "We are changing the engagement model for how a research university in the United States reaches out to make our world better. We are seizing these global opportunities for Purdue, the state of Indiana and our nation."

Bhuvana Thiruvelu, a postdoctoral research associate at Birck, working in nanomaterials lab in India.

Partnering for the Pursuit of Innovation

Discovery Park, with its advanced research capabilities and state-of-the-art facilities, acts as a lens to focus many sources of light.

These sources include top facility, researchers, staff and students across all disciplines at Purdue, along with government, foundations, business interests and other academic institutions throughout the state, nation and world. Discovery Park then focuses that light into promising solutions to complex global issues, knowing collaboration is a key to these advancements.

Building on the power of Purdue's vast resources, Discovery Park research centers are positioned to support emerging technologies and to facilitate global research critical to addressing 21st century challenges.

"The universities that are going to succeed and succeed well into the future are those that have torn down the silos - that allow faculty across disciplines to work together. And, of course, because of Discovery Park, that's happening right now here at Purdue University."

Entrepreneurs and investors who seek to bring an idea from the lab to the marketplace can access various discovery park researchers and experts across disciplines and utilize park resources to cultivate meaningful collaborations quickly and effectively.

With the help of strategic agreements with various corporate partners, foundations, government agencies and national and international academic institutions, Discovery Park has grown into a $500 multidisciplinary research complex for large-scale projects.

  • Laboratory space added: 113,000 square feet
  • Economic Impact: $70.5 million in sponsored research funding in 2008-09, $77 million in research funding through first six months of 2009-10; $205 million in private donations invested in facilities. (through March 2010)
  • Office, meeting space added: 93,000 sq. ft.
  • Equipment added: $27 million

Impact on Partnerships

Since its launch in 2001, Discovery Park has provided a platform for driving Purdue's pursuit of funding for large-scale interdisciplinary research projects. Here is a list of success stories through Discovery Park that demonstrate how teamwork on a university campus is making a difference in partnerships:

Purdue kicks off national center to visualize homeland security data

VACCINE researchers will develop interactive software algorithms that create visualizations, graphics and maps with essential information to help emergency personnel who use a variety of devices, from office desktop computers to mobile phones in the field, said David Ebert, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering who leads VACCINE.

"We are creating ways for people to get information interactively in an understandable format to help them make the right decisions and take preventive measures," Ebert said. "For example, simulations to see what would happen if you were to quarantine a certain city to control the spread of pandemic flu or whether reallocating police patrols would reduce crime."

The visualizations will show concise representations of the key information within massive data streams of information.

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Grant fosters IU-Purdue cancer partnership

Purdue's Oncological Sciences Center and the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center will share a five-year, $1 million grant from the Walther Cancer Foundation to exchange medical fellows, engineers and scientists for advancing cancer research.

The Walther Oncology Physical Sciences & Engineering Research Embedding Program will be launched through the IU-Purdue Cancer Care Engineering project to create opportunities for postdoctoral fellows to train in clinics and for medical fellows to work in Purdue laboratories as interdisciplinary cancer research teams.

Purdue and IU each will invest an additional $250,000 in the project.

"This innovative partnering of medical fellows and engineering/physical sciences postdoctoral fellows on joint cancer-focused projects will benefit the translation of newly developed technology to the patient," said Marietta Harrison, associate vice president for research and director of Purdue's Oncological Sciences Center in Discovery Park.

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Center brings together life science technologists

Analytical chemistry and its instruments provide the measurements and quantitative information underlying much of the research and commercial activity in chemistry, biology, and medicine. A Center for Analytical Instrumentation Development (CAID) is being created in Discovery Park that brings together chemists, physicists, engineers, biologists, and physicians from multiple Schools at Purdue University and other institutions in the region. The mission of the Center is to develop innovative "machine-tools of science" that enable discoveries across a broad spectrum of life science. These activities will lead to routine, point-of-need devices for use in drug discovery, clinical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and the fight against chemical and biological terrorism. America leads the world in the development of analytical instrumentation and we propose to lead America.

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Collaboration targets assistive technologies

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) has collaborated with BioCrossroads and Fitzgerald & Associates to develop a framework for establishing Indiana as the global epicenter for innovation in assistive technology development and application. Through many interviews, work sessions, and surveys the opportunities and challenges of the adaptive technology (AT) market have been identified. The Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering (RCHE) is privileged to have the opportunity to work with the FSSA to build the innovation capacity in the AT market and ultimately establish Indiana as the global epicenter of AT.

The Center for Assistive Technology (CAT) is dedicated to improving the functionality and independence of those with the disabilities through innovation and adoption of assistive technologies. The center will bring the AT community together and provide direction for the future of AT in Indiana. RCHE will provide the initial oversight for the center's organization and provide support and assistance for CAT to realize its mission.

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International effort to study nutrition, breast cancer

Purdue University researchers are inviting scientists from around the world to collaborate on a new initiative to better understand how nutrition affects breast cancer.

"We know that eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial to one's health, especially for cancer prevention, but there are still many unknowns about the role nutritional mechanisms play in cancer development and recurrence," said Sophie Lelievre (pronounced Le-LEE-YEA-vre), associate professor of basic medical sciences and leader of the Breast Cancer Discovery Group at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. "There is a void in cancer prevention research in general, and that doesn't help empower patients. Our ultimate goal is to develop strategies that diminish breast cancer incidence, then utilize communication and public policy to educate people about our findings."

The medical community has studied genetics and breast cancer for years, Lelievre said, but now more researchers are focusing on how lifestyle factors such as nutrition affect the genes related to breast cancer. A growing area of science is called epigenetics, which is a change in the gene's function with no change in the DNA sequence that defines the gene. It has potential to be one of the key aspects of gene control by environmental factors like nutrition. It will be one of the targets for the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition Project. In general, researchers will be looking at the cellular and molecular mechanisms to better understand the role nutrients play in breast tissue alterations and cancer development.

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Life science alliance targets economic growth

The Indiana Innovation Alliance would be led by Purdue and IU and would bring together a wide spectrum of businesses, government and universities to share research facilities and other resources to expand the state's capacity to support new and existing companies in the biology and health-related fields.

The focus of the alliance would be on research with applications in business, including the potential to create new companies. Research also would be directed toward improving the overall health of the state. Indiana public health ranks among the lowest of the 50 states, a statistic that is costly to businesses and a drain on economic development.

Research focuses of the alliance would encompass medical and health-related fields, pharmaceuticals, bioenergy and biofuels, nanotechnology, health-care delivery and the environment.

The universities are proposing that the Legislature create the Indiana Innovation Alliance by appropriating $35 million in each of the upcoming fiscal year 2009-2011 state biennial budget. The funding would include $5 million each year to expand the capacity of the IU School of Medicine to educate physicians.

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Contact Information By Audience

Contact information at the end of each chapter has been created to direct our audience - students, faculty, partners, and visitors - in their efforts to connect with the right person to discuss areas of potential involvement in Discovery Park activities. Related Web sites link visitors to programs at Discovery Park.

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The Overview chapter offers a glimpse at the unique features, the latest news, building locations and contact information for Discovery Park.


Learn about how research has been reinvented at Discovery Park, how collaborations among scientists and stakeholders are seeking solutions to grand challenges, and the impacts of discovery.


Discovery Park is delivering on Purdue's land-grant mission to serve the people of Indiana and the nation. Large-scale research drives economic development in a knowledge economy and Discovery Park is the engine.


Activities at Discovery Park transform people's lives. Undergraduates gain hands-on research experience, business plan competitions nurture a new generation of entrepreneurs, and innovative diagnostic tools detect early stages of disease.


To meet today's grand challenges, a spectrum of partnerships are forming at Discovery Park -- international partners, partnerships with foundations, institutions and industry all contribute to advancing learning and research.