By: Emily Scott
The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) is excited to announce the launch of the Catherine and Don Kleinmuntz Center for Genomics in Business and Society, which will build on the IGB’s innovative genomic research by enhancing its global influence.
The Kleinmuntz Center will be a part of the IGB and will provide unique opportunities for economic development, public engagement and social impact.
Drs. Catherine and Don Kleinmuntz are the co-founders of Strata Decision Technology, a healthcare analytics software company that was an early tenant of the University of Illinois Research Park.
“I was introduced to IGB when I was invited to come speak to the students and faculty about entrepreneurship and building a start-up business. It is easy to see that IGB is a very special place, because of the scientific talent gathered under one roof and because of the importance of the problems being addressed,” said Catherine.
“Looking at IGB from my perspective as a former University of Illinois faculty member, what stands out is the interdisciplinary, team-based nature of IGB’s research,” Don said. “Solving these truly difficult problems requires breaking out of traditional academic silos, drawing together the best minds from across campus, and giving them the resources they need to devise unique solutions.”
Established in 2007, the IGB addresses grand challenges in society, relying on interdisciplinary team science research fueled by faculty from 34 departments at the University of Illinois. This work has helped uncover the origins of life, created better cancer therapeutics, and made crops more efficient, among many other discoveries.
“The IGB is part of a powerful, integrated institute ecosystem at Illinois, designed to break down barriers to convergent research and address large-scale societal challenges in unique ways,” said University of Illinois Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Susan Martinis. “This means that our world-class scientists will have further opportunities to innovate and push their creativity to greater heights—work that in turn attracts the attention of industry and entrepreneurial pioneers like Catherine and Don.”
The IGB is also “where science meets society.” The Institute has long prioritized commercializing impactful research and connecting with the public through educational outreach programs.
“Great scientific discoveries do not simply leap out of the laboratory and into the real world,” Don said. “We see an opportunity to encourage and facilitate the process of translating great science into applications that will benefit business and society.”
“Part of the solution is to help scientists understand what it takes to make the transition to commercial applications,” Catherine said. “But we also want to make sure that individuals in business, government, and society at large understand the immense potential that these scientific advances have to impact their health, wealth, and well-being.”
A generous donation from Drs. Catherine and Don Kleinmuntz will fund this center and provide researchers with proof-of-concept and pre-commercialization support that will help them bring technologies and innovations to market. The center will support several economic, professional, and outreach initiatives at the IGB and provide funding to prioritize work that has societal impact, scientific merit and commercial potential.
“We are very excited to be able to launch the Kleinmuntz Center, and deeply grateful to Catherine and Don for their generosity and confidence in the IGB,” said IGB Director Gene Robinson. “This center will enable us to take our commercialization and social impact efforts to the next level, and help further develop the reputation of the IGB as one of the leading genomics institutes in the country.”
The Kleinmuntz Center will also broaden the Genomics For™ program, which teaches basic concepts in genomics to specific demographic or professional groups, helping them understand the full impact of genomics both in their professions and in society. The program will expand to host workshops for journalists, investors and government agencies, and bring in established speakers to share experiences and discuss the current landscape within their disciplines.
The IGB’s World of Genomics, an event that continues to bring genomics to the public through hands-on exhibitions at science and natural history museums, will also receive support from the Kleinmuntz Center, enabling this event to reach new locations, delivering the impact of genomic research to broad audiences across the country.
These initiatives assist the IGB in its goal of reaching young students, especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities, through its varied outreach programs. The Kleinmuntz Center will bring together economic development and societal advancement, proving that genomic research has the ability to make a difference in all areas of life.
“The IGB is already a crown jewel of the University of Illinois System, advancing the frontiers of knowledge and solving critical problems,” Catherine said. “Don and I want the Kleinmuntz Center to accelerate and leverage the impact of these advances, for the benefit of the people of Illinois and the entire world.”
By: Emily Scott