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President’s office announces $10.9 million for third round of strategic funding awardees

A program for enhancing access to cancer screenings, a center for advancing cell and gene therapies, an AI-augmented learning platform for mathematics, and a digital humanities lab are among 10 new projects receiving strategic funding at the University of Florida, President Ben Sasse announced today. The funding initiative is designed to advance interdisciplinary scholarship and enhance the student experience.

“These exceptional initiatives will not only elevate UF’s standing as a national research leader but also transform lives here in Florida and around the world,” Sasse said. “UF continues to put this strategic funding to excellent use. We are facing and solving some of the biggest problems of our generation through the kind of interdisciplinary, collaborative work that will change lives for years to come.”

After UF received $130 million in new funding from the Florida Legislature this year, Sasse established that, for the first time, more than half of the funds would be directed to units for special strategic projects. A total of $24 million was delivered to deans to report back on their strategic uses of funds, and another $50 million was made available across all colleges and administrative units.

UF received more than 250 submissions, and 36 proposals have been selected so far and announced in three rounds. A final round of proposals will be announced at a future date.

The first round of 19 proposals were awarded $13.4 million in funding on Oct. 3, and the second round of seven proposals were awarded $5.4 million on Nov. 13. Feasibility studies have informed proposal selection. The following 10 were selected in the third round to receive a total of $10,872,000:

With enhanced visibility for their projects, the awardees can now watch their visions come to fruition.

“As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the UF Health Cancer Center is charged with addressing the burden of cancer in the large area we serve, with a strong focus on rural and aging populations,” said Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., the director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “Our goal is to reduce the burden of late-stage cancer diagnoses and mortality through early detection and personalized services that help people access the treatment they need.”

Jennifer Bizon, Ph.D., the director of the McKnight Brain Institute, expressed gratitude for the funding of the Transforming Stroke Care project.

“We are grateful for these strategic funds, which will further propel the McKnight Brain Institute’s multidisciplinary research efforts in stroke prevention and treatment,” Bizon said. “This project, under Dr. Brian Hoh’s leadership, exemplifies our mission to build research collaborations among clinical and basic science investigators across our UF and UF Health campuses that will improve outcomes and change lives.”

Beth A. Virnig, Ph.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health & Health Professions, looks forward to improving patients’ lives through the AI Applications to Pediatric Neuromedicine project.

“This will lead to more effective treatments for devastating disorders that contribute to lifelong disabilities,” Virnig said. “The project brings together a powerhouse of UF expertise in magnetic resonance imaging, neuromuscular disease, physiology, and AI – to bring about real-world improvements in health outcomes and quality of life for children with muscular dystrophy and their families.”

Colleen Koch, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine, championed the funding of the Toward a Health Metaverse project.

“This will enable the creation of a groundbreaking Intelligent Virtual Hospital and a regional center for the development of advanced therapeutics, both of which will have a transformative impact in Florida and across the region,” Koch said.

The College of Medicine’s cell and gene therapy initiative also has incredible, innovative potential.

“The opportunity to develop transformative cell and gene therapy products for severe medical conditions will continue to position UF as an international leader in the new discipline of genetic medicine,” said Barry Byrne, M.D., Ph.D., the director of UF’s Powell Gene Therapy Center. “We are grateful for the support of the strategic funding award to advance these innovative faculty ideas across the academic health center and to train the next generation of clinician-scientists in advanced therapeutics.”

The Research Software Engineers project will help build expertise in computer science research and further strengthen UF’s campus-wide AI initiatives.

“President Sasse’s strategic investment in research will transform how UF faculty envision the application of use-inspired AI spanning all disciplines,” said UF Vice President and Chief Information Officer Elias G. Eldayrie.

Linda R. Edwards, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine – Jacksonville, is optimistic that the Precision Autism Center of Excellence will have a significant effect on healthcare outcomes.

“We are thrilled to be receiving this opportunity to provide additional support to individuals with autism,” Edwards said. “As the number of children born with autism and related disorders continues to rise, our capacity to diagnose and offer treatment has been stretched. Even after diagnosis, access to needed services often gets delayed. Knowing that the center will enhance our capacity to offer care adds hope and excitement for the future.”

Another exciting initiative is the Digital Humanities Lab, which will enrich and amplify humanities research.

“We are now in a knowledge and technology revolution that is transforming higher education and the global economy,” said David Richardson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Every liberal arts discipline is redefining its methods and asking new research questions, and the humanities are no exception. In this facility, historians, philosophers, and literary scholars will collaborate with engineers and scientists in exciting, new ways.”

And the SALT-Math and UF Stars projects from the College of Education are sure to help reshape the learning and teaching landscape.

“As evidenced by these projects, faculty and students at the college continue to make incredible strides in translating research into practice,” said Glenn Good, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education. “This alignment of efforts across the university will prove to be transformative, unlocking benefits that will strengthen our society.”


About the University of Florida

The University of Florida attracts the best and brightest students, staff and faculty, places them together and connects them with world-class resources to spark extraordinary discoveries and innovations. UF’s momentum is reflected in the university’s designation as a No. 1 public university in the country by the Wall Street Journal. Artificial intelligence is a centerpiece at UF, spanning all disciplines so that every student has the opportunity to acquire competence and expertise in AI. The University of Florida is a place where limitless potential meets boundless opportunity through teaching, research, scholarship and service to the state, the nation and the world.

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Media Contact:
Steve Orlando


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