Collaborations Across Disciplines

Investing in the future: Discovery Themes

Since Ohio State opened its doors in 1873, the university has embraced its land-grant mandate to bring the practical results of its research prowess to the community. From the development of the state’s Meteorological Service in 1873 to today’s advances in nanotechnology, climate change and materials science, Ohio State has pioneered the discoveries and innovations that change—and save—lives. The Discovery Themes initiative is the natural evolution of Ohio State’s time-honored tradition of finding solutions to grand challenges.

The Discovery Themes provide Ohio State with an unprecedented opportunity to find durable solutions to three of the world’s most compelling issues: ensuring a sustainable future, nourishing the world’s growing population and promoting the health of people everywhere. The university is able to develop solutions as global as the challenges they answer—solutions that will require a collaborative approach across disciplines to be effective.

The areas identified in which the university will make a global impact are Energy and Environment, Food Production and Security, and Health and Wellness.

Focus areas include:

  • Brain injury
  • Foods for health
  • The humanities and the arts
  • Infectious diseases
  • Food and agricultural transformation
  • Materials and manufacturing for sustainability
  • Sustainable and resilient economy
  • Translational data analytics
Studying the relationship between foods and health

The focus of the Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship (CAFFRE) is on the relationship between diet and health—from crops to the clinic to the consumer—to maximize the health benefits of the foods we eat and decrease the risk of developing diseases. The center, part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, encourages collaboration across disciplines. Researchers from nine colleges and schools, including the College of Medicine and the Comprehensive Cancer Center, are working together to look at the role fat in avocados has on the body’s absorption of carotenoids, study how a nectar made from black raspberries could provide protection against certain types of cancer and examine the absorption and distribution of lycopene from red and tangerine tomatoes in prostate cancer patients. Steven Schwartz (food science and technology) is the director of CAFFRE.

Using data to prescribe antibiotics

Courtney Hebert (biomedical informatics) is developing a way to help physicians select antibiotics for patients with serious infections before the cause of the infection is identified. A $1.9 million award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will enable Hebert and a multidisciplinary team of researchers from infectious diseases, pharmacy, microbiology and biomedical informatics, to automate and validate a tool that uses microbiology data from the hospital and clinical information from the patient to predict which antibiotic regimen would best treat a patient’s infection before culture results are available. The methodology is being developed at NorthShore University Health Systems in Chicago to show that the tool can be easily generalized to other sites. An automated algorithm for formatting the data will then be created. This tool has the potential to reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Studying naturally occurring antitumor agents

A. Douglas Kinghorn (medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy) is furthering his research on naturally occurring antitumor agents from tropical plants, aquatic cyanobacteria and filamentous fungi with a $7.1 million continuation grant from the National Cancer Institute. Kinghorn and his team of investigators from the Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine hope to identify and synthetically modify new, naturally occurring lead compounds that have potential as cancer chemotherapeutic agents and advance them toward clinical use. Additional collaborators on the study include the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Columbia University, Mycosynthetix Inc. and Eisai Inc. This grant is one of the largest in the College of Pharmacy’s history.