Tufts Innovation Institute To Create Forum For Research Collaborations

Recognizing the changing face of research and its applications in health care, Tufts University is leading the charge to create an exciting new organization to create global impact.

President Anthony Monaco and Provost David Harris have engaged a working group for the development of the Tufts Innovation Institute (TII), a forum for research and educational collaborations across the University.

Dr. Jonathan Garlick, professor in the TUSDM Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral Medicine and Craniofacial Pain, is one of the working group members who were tasked with deciding on a theme for the institute. He, as well as Dr. David Walt, The Robinson Professor of Chemistry, in Tuft’s Department of Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences and the principal leader of the initiative, will present the institute’s themes and basic mission at a meeting on August 7 in an effort to engage TUSDM staff and faculty. Dr. Garlick said that though the project is in its infancy, his dream is that it will steadily evolve into a nurturing environment for “translational research that will promote oral, dental and craniofacial health that will serve national and international populations to combat the impact of infectious diseases.”

“The vision is that we will become leaders and change agents to implement the broader impacts of our discoveries on a global stage,” Dr. Garlick said. “And that we will also create a cultural change to learn about and collaborate with other health practice communities.”

The permanent theme for the institute is “Microbes, the Environment and the Human Condition”; a theme which is intended to highlight the inexorable bonds between humanity and the microscopic life-forms which both sustain us. The subject will span a wide range of fields and topics, including, micro-biomes, infectious disease research, and science policy and legal scholarship.

“The TII will be a big tent. It’s mission is to include expertise in every area when solving problems,” Dr. Garlick said. “There are tremendous strengths at Tufts that can be leveraged to inform the consequences of our discoveries in ways that will assure the global distribution of new therapies.”

The institute is planned to be primarily housed on the Boston campus with additional research sites on the Medford and Grafton campuses as needed.  The initial working group is hoping to identify temporary space on the Boston campus in which to open TII in January 2014. Dr. Garlick noted that one of the most important considerations of the project is that the institute be both financially sustainable but also nimble in its reach and scope. The theme, for example, will be a permanent part of TII’s mission, but will evolve based on global needs and what research discoveries that take place.

“We need to be agile and flexible,” he said. “We need a center that can change with the times, based on what’s discovered and what becomes important. This needs to be a home for evolving engagement.”

The immediate next steps for the institute’s working group are identifying specific topics that provide Tufts with the best opportunity to make a significant impact; identifying dedicated space on all three Tufts campuses to house the institute; identifying TII core faculty by Fall 2013; and developing a sustainable business model.

“It will take some time,” Dr. Garlick said. “It’s in an embryonic state right now.”

In addition to the health sciences, Dr. Garlick envisions that Tufts experts in topics such as economics, political science, and entrepreneurship could play a central role in the institute, accelerating the pipeline from discovery to dissemination of health care to needy populations.

“Our mission is to improve human health. Individual investigators can’t do it by themselves.. We need to create synergistic relationships with industry partners, entrepreneurs and to leverage the great strengths of Tufts faculty and students   to innovate go from benchside, to bedside, to ‘worldside’.”