UTEP, TTUHSC strengthen partnership for health research and education

Richard Lange and Heather Wilson, Guest columnists
Published 9:57 a.m. MT Oct. 1, 2020

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UTEP’s Dr. Suman Sirimulla, professor of Medicinal Chemistry, is working on a cure for COVID-19 from his lab. (Photo: Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

The University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso recently announced a series of new initiatives to strengthen collaboration and expand health research involving faculty at both universities.

These efforts will leverage the success of joint projects that have already taken place, including some that address the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also the direct product of a commitment made several months ago by both institutions to make it easier for our researchers and students to work together.

More: UTEP COVID-19 testing program yet to reach capacity, though campus has low positivity rate

One important component of this new phase of our partnership is a seed grant program designed to spur major research in areas such as drug therapies, cancer prevention and health disparities. Under this program, each institution will contribute up to $100,000 over the next two years. UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso will review and select collaborative proposals from faculty seeking support for joint research projects that will seek external funding. Seed projects will be funded up to $25,000 per team of UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso faculty.

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The latest phase of the collaboration also includes the creation of a joint task force to catalog and increase opportunities for shared use of expensive research equipment and facilities at both institutions. While researchers at both institutions have shared equipment in a more organic manner for some time, the formalization of this process benefits future projects by creating a shared inventory so faculty can identify equipment that’s easily accessible at both institutions.

Another new initiative that directly benefits students at UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso is a plan to streamline joint faculty appointments. We want to make it easy for a faculty member at UTEP to teach a course at TTUHSC El Paso, and vice versa, so our students can benefit from the opportunity to learn from and work with the region’s leading experts.

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The renewed collaboration also includes additional efforts to simplify oversight of joint research. A year ago, TTUHSC El Paso and UTEP agreed to change their research review processes to make joint research easier. Now, in addition to regular reviews and streamlined processes, senior faculty members from each university serve on the Institutional Review Boards of the other.

Over the past year, TTUHSC El Paso and UTEP have removed barriers to working together. Now we are taking it to the next step. We want to open pathways to expanded health research in El Paso. These newest efforts embody our shared conviction that we are stronger together than either of us are alone.

Richard Lange is President of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and Dean of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. Heather Wilson is President of The University of Texas at El Paso.

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