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Check out IU School of Medicine’s Top Stories of 2018


At Indiana University School of Medicine, 2018 was a big year.

Our faculty members brought promising new therapies to Indiana and were awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to fuel research related to pressing health problems. We expanded residency education outside of Indianapolis and welcomed new leaders with bold ideas.

So much happened in the last 365 days that it’s impossible to rank the top stories of 2018. So, in no particular order, here is some of our biggest news of the past year.

Don’t have time to read? Watch our Year in Review video.

Alzheimer’s study receives IU’s largest single NIH grant

IU School of Medicine neurologist Liana Apostolova, MD, garnered a $44.7 million grant from the National Institute of Aging to fund the Longitudinal Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease Study. The grant is the university’s largest single award from the National Institutes of Health. A nationwide study, LEADS will follow participants diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which strikes people younger than 65 — often in their 40s and 50s.

New therapy for rare bone disease

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug to treat XLH, an uncommon, painful and deforming bone disease. The drug is based on the research of IU School of Medicine faculty members Michael Econs, MD, and Kenneth E. White, PhD.

Promising cancer treatment comes to Indiana

CAR-T therapy may be the most promising cancer treatment to emerge in recent memory. And in 2018, it became available in Indiana as a result of the IU Precision Health Initiative. The treatment involves reprogramming a patient’s immune cells to recognize and attack cancer. Sherif Farag, MD, PhD, the Lawrence H. Einhorn Professor of Oncology, treated Indiana’s first adult patients with CAR-T through our partners at IU Health. And Jodi Skiles, MD, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, administered the therapy for the first time at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Regenerative medicine

The school launched the new Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering to develop new approaches to repair and replace tissue and organs damaged by age, disease or trauma. Chandan Sen, PhD, and a team of dozens of researchers were recruited from Ohio State to build the program.

New home in Evansville

IU School of Medicine-Evansville moved into its new home in the city’s downtown. The Stone Family Center for Health Sciences brings together academic health care programs from IU, the University of Evansville and the University of Southern Indiana.

Speaking of new buildings…

Indiana University and Indiana University Health broke ground in January 2018 on a new Regional Academic Health Center that will bring the hospital, outpatient services and most of IU’s clinical sciences programs in Bloomington together on one campus. The complex will include a 115,000-square-foot academic building that will house IU School of Medicine-Bloomington, as well as programs in nursing, social work, speech and hearing, and dentistry.

Taking on triple negative

In May, IU School of Medicine established a new research center focused on dramatically improving therapies for some of the most difficult-to-treat types of breast cancer. The center was named the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research in recognition of two decades of philanthropic support from the Indiana-based handbag maker and its charitable foundation. The center is especially focused on triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of breast cancer for which there are no targeted therapies.

Precision Health Initiative takes aim

The IU Precision Health Initiative announced the diseases on which it is setting its sights. Precision Health researchers said they intend to develop curative therapies for at least one cancer, and they are concentrating their efforts on multiple myeloma, triple negative breast cancer and childhood sarcoma. Research teams are also focused on developing precision-based strategies for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Expanding residencies

We are Indiana’s medical school, so it’s critical that we train physicians who will serve all Hoosiers—regardless of where they live. With that in mind, IU School of Medicine this year established its first residency program outside the Indianapolis metropolitan area. The IU School of Medicine Arnett Family Medicine Residency Program is the first of several new residencies that will open throughout the state in coming years.

Support for cancer patients

Cancer care should go beyond standard therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and consider a patient’s overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being. That’s the thinking behind the new Walther Supportive Oncology Program, which was established thanks to a commitment of $14 million from the Walther Cancer Foundation. James Cleary, MD, a global leader in palliative care, joined the faculty to lead the program.

There’s more…

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We received more than $22 million to expand the world’s most comprehensive study of concussions and began dramatically increasing the size and scope of a federally funded biobank that is critical for Alzheimer’s research. We welcomed 360 new medical students and sent  more than 300 graduates off to residencies.

We can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Karen Spataro

Director of Strategic Communications

Karen Spataro served as director of the Indiana University School of Medicine Office of Strategic Communications from 2018-2020. She is now the Chief Communications Officer at Riley Children's Foundation.