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Research and Creative Works Strategic Investment Program

Given the financial challenges due to COVID, we will pause the Strategic Investment Program Tier 1 and Tier 2 funding programs for this year (2020-2021 academic year). We will, however, honor the full commitment that we made for the inaugural Tier 1 and Tier 2 programs. Please stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Beginning in 2019, the UM System Research and Creative Works Strategic Investment Program supports university projects through a $50M investment over a 5 year period. This investment is one component of the overall $260M strategic investments toward the five Missouri Compacts for Excellence and the University of Missouri System Strategic Plan. The Research and Creative Works Strategic Investment Program focuses on catalyst projects that can lead to nationally-awarded center grants. 

Academic Year 2019 Projects

After a formal proposal process with more than 115 proposals submitted, the following projects have been selected as Academic Year 2019 strategic investments. The projects will be funded with up to $20.5 million, $11 million from UM System and the remaining funds from the four universities. Projects selected cover two broad categories: supporting the NextGen Precision Health Initiative and Institute; and serving other key priorities of our four universities.

Click on a header to expand a selection and uncover additional information about the projects supported.

Supports NextGen Precision Health Initiative and Institute

*Establishment of the NextGen Data Analytics Center

  • PI: Praveen Rao, UMKC; Prasad Calyam, MU
  • Co-PIs: Zhu Li, Viviana Grieco, UMKC; Peter Tonellato, Deepthi Rao, Prasad Calyam, MU; Sanjay Madria, Missouri S&T; Timothy Middelkoop, Kannappan Palaniappan, Satish Nair, Ye Duan, Trupti Joshi, MU

The traditional model of a central supercomputer resource that serves the majority of campus users falls short of the new reality in which collaborative, interdisciplinary and highly data/computation-intensive resources are not always within campus boundaries. This project will support a “community-scale” research computing approach that will advance systemwide research and education collaborations and seamlessly integrate local and remote resources, directly supporting the NextGen Precision Health Initiative in addition to many other research collaborations across the UM System. This center will be the first of its kind in the UM System, capable of analyzing and storing massive datasets, bringing new capabilities to our researchers and students in an era of the rapidly growing demand for data scientists. In the coming months, university leaders will coordinate with Drs. Rao and Calyam and other faculty colleagues to leverage this investment with donors and industry partners.

*Center for Glass Science and Technology

  • PI: Richard Brow, Missouri S&T
  • Co-PIs: Ming C. Leu, Julia Medvedeva, Julie Semon, S&T; Yezaz Ghouri, MU

This proposal is to purchase equipment and create facilities for a Center for Glass Science and Technology (CGST), including an electron microprobe that will significantly enhance research capabilities across the UM System; thermal, mechanical, and optical characterization equipment; and an upgrade and expansion of glass preparation facilities. The CGST will build on Missouri S&T’s previous success in glass research, such as the development of TheraSphere® and Mirragen®, by providing the tools and collaborative space necessary to solve problems in biomedical and materials science research.

Radiopharmacology Core

  • PI: David Robertson, MU
  • Co-PIs: Jeff Smith, Silvia Jurisson, Jeffrey Bryan, Tom Quinn

MU is the only university in the United States to have brought three FDA-approved radiopharmaceuticals to market, demonstrating our position as a national leader in radiopharmacology. This project aims to build on that success by providing critical infrastructure and collaborative expertise to researchers who have ideas that can attract national funding, but lack the personal expertise or laboratory facilities to fully develop a radiopharmaceutical product.The long-term vision is to develop a research pipeline where radiopharmaceutical agents can be developed by UM faculty across the System, tested in cell cultures and small animals at the Institute for Nano and Molecular Innovation (INMI), then in large animals at the Veterinary Medicine center, with eventual first-in-person studies at the NextGen Precision Health Institute.

Missouri Resource for Cryo-Electron Microscopy

  • PI: Michael Chapman, MU
  • Co-PIs: Donald Burke, Jack Tanner, Tommi White, Lloyd Sumner, Xiaolan Yao

This proposal aims to acquire a Talos Arctica™ Cryo-Electron Microscope (EM) to equip researchers with the leading cryo-EM technology to investigate fundamental biomolecular interactions and enable pharmaceutical development, but will also have remote operation capabilities for scientists throughout the state who prefer to mail samples rather than travel to Columbia. In the coming months, university leaders will coordinate with Dr. Chapman and other faculty colleagues to leverage this investment and develop a center for excellence in electron microscopy with donors and industry partners.

NovaSeq Instrumentation and Sequencing: Leveraging MU Resources for Advancing Research

  • PI: Wesley Warren, MU
  • Co-PIs: Leslie Lyons, Robert Schnabel, Kevin F. Staveley-O’Carroll, Douglas C Miller, Peter J Tonellato

Technological advances in DNA sequencing have revolutionized biomedical science and healthcare approaches, but constant technological advances require continued investment. This proposal aims to maintain MU’s excellence in research by providing researchers with the Illumina®NovaSeq system, the latest disruptive technology that offers quantum enhancements in speed, volume and quality of sequencing at a significantly lower cost – an upgrade that will allow MU’s sequencing capabilities to match or exceed those of the top research universities around the world.

Imaging and Spectroscopy for Biological and Nanosciences

  • PI: Cynthia Dupureur, UMSL
  • Co-PIs: Michael Nichols, Xuemin Wang, Lon Chubiz, Keith Stine, R. Fredrik Inglis

The Microscope Imaging and Spectroscopy Technology (MIST) Laboratory is a facility at the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a 20-year history of supporting academic and industry projects; however, this vital resource is threatened by aging equipment and a lack of dedicated personnel. This proposal aims to upgrade the MIST lab and support efforts to compete for top-tier funding opportunities, strengthen industry ties through collaboration, and provide the best training for the next generation of scientists.

Accelerating Development of Glycopharmaceuticals: Establishment of the UMSL Glocoscience Consortium

  • PI: Alexei Demchenko, UMSL
  • Co-PIs: Eike E. Bauer, Michael R. Nichols, Christopher D. Spilling, Keith J. Stine, Chung F. Wong

Carbohydrate-based drugs, called glycopharmaceuticals, are a promising but underdeveloped clinical technology for many conditions, such as microbial sepsis, a massive immune response to E. coli in the blood that causes more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. This proposal aims to establish the Glycoscience Consortium, which will cultivate a unique area of expertise within Missouri and build collaborations to accelerate the rational design, synthesis, and evaluation of new glycopharmaceuticals.

Developing a Radiopharmaceutical Pipeline

  • PI: Timothy Glass, MU
  • Co-PIs: Charles Maitz, Dave Robertson, Jeff Smith, Silvia Jurisson

Researchers at the MU Research Reactor (MURR) developed and produced diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals in cooperation with private industry for decades, with three FDA-approved drugs already on the market. This proposal aims to develop a multidisciplinary collaborative pipeline to discover new radiopharmaceutical agents at MU and bring these new and much-needed cancer imaging and therapy agents to patients faster.

Tumor Aptamer Theranostics for Antigen Discovery, Immunotherapy, and Targeted Delivery

  • PI: Donald Burke-Aguero, MU
  • Co-PIs: Mark Daniels, Diego Avella, Jusuf Kaifi, Jeff Smith, David Porciani

Developing therapies that will kill tumors but preserve healthy tissue requires biotechnology that can target cancer-specific molecular markers, while also being safe and easy to use. This research team will address this problem using aptamers, which are DNA-like molecules that can be designed to recognize and bind a cancer target, and developing methods to bind aptamers to cancer imaging agents and radiopharmaceuticals.

Precision Medicine Approaches to Treat Heart Failure in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

  • PI: Kerry McDonald, MU
  • Co-PI: Maike Krenz
  • Co-Is: Gang (Gary) Yao, Christopher P. Baines, Timothy L. Domeier

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating and incurable muscle-wasting disease that occurs in 1/3,500 newborns and progresses rapidly, leading to premature death—often due to heart failure. This research team, which includes a world leader in DMD research and a renowned clinician who pioneered the use of Big Data in patient treatment, will use a multi-pronged strategy to understand heart failure progression in patients with DMD and pave the way to targeting the most effective therapy for a patient’s unique genetic background.

Exosomes and Cardiovascular Disease in Obesity and Sleep Apnea

  • PI: David Gozal, MU
  • Co-PIs: Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, Abdelnaby Khalyfa, Jaume Padilla, Luis A. Martinez-Lemus and Camila Manrique

The global obesity epidemic also increases the prevalence of other dangerous disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease (CVD), and there is evidence that a synergistic relationship between these conditions can be explained at the cell level. The goal of this proposal is to establish a multidisciplinary research group who will work to understand the cellular connection between obesity and vascular disease, and also develop new targeted therapies for CVD—the number one cause of death worldwide.

Modeling Early Pregnancy in Humans

  • PI: Thomas Spencer, MU
  • Co-PIs: Toshihiko Ezashi, Amanda Patterson, Laura Schulz, Danny Schust, Bret Ulery

Problems during early pregnancy can cause infertility, miscarriage and other complications, but this crucial period is poorly understood because it is impossible to obtain tissue samples from pregnant women in the first trimester. This project aims to develop the first model of human implantation in a laboratory dish without using human embryos, opening new possibilities to study early pregnancy, develop reproductive therapies, and solve fertility problems that affect 50% of all women worldwide during their life.

Center for Vector-borne and Emerging Infectious Diseases

  • PI: Deborah Anderson, MU
  • Co-PIs: Brenda Beerntsen, Donald Burke-Aguero, Deborah Finke, Alexander Franz, Bret Ulery

Missouri is the perfect environment for mosquitos, fleas and ticks to infect livestock and humans with the horrific diseases caused by Zika, West Nile and other viruses. In response to recent major outbreaks in humans and the lack of understanding about these diseases, this research team will study insect vectors to understand the mechanics that drive the spread of disease and develop new approaches for diagnosis and treatment.


Supports Other Priority Areas

The first three proposals below serve as co-investments for the newly created Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation, a new UM System center that includes all four universities, to support transportation research and development needs of Missouri Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

*Center for Novel Carbon-Efficient Binders for Sustainable Infrastructure

  • PI: Kamal Khayat, Missouri S&T
  • Co-PIs: Sajal Das, Aditya Kumar, Hongyan Ma, S&T; George Zsidisin, UMSL

Concrete is the most produced and used material in the world, but production of portland cement (PC), the principal “binding agent” in concrete, is energy-intensive and responsible for about nine percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The proposed project is a collaboration between Missouri S&T and UMSL that will pioneer creation of PC-free binders that are not only more sustainable and efficient, but also stronger, more durable and longer-lasting than current PC-binders.

*Establishment of the Center for Infrastructure Preservation and Resilience

  • PI: Genda Chen, Missouri S&T
  • Co-PIs: Jenny Liu, Suzanna Long, Zhaozheng Yin, S&T; William G. Buttlar, MU

U.S. infrastructure, including buildings, bridges, roads, tunnels and electrical grids, is rapidly deteriorating, and sustainably rebuilding this infrastructure will require coordinated and integrated collaboration. This proposal aims to leverage the UM System’s strengths—including data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence—to transform the existing decision-making process into a data-driven, streamlined approach to infrastructure design, inspection and maintenance.

*Building a Convergent Research Community for Smart City Center Procurement

  • PI: Bill Buttlar, MU
  • Co-PIs: Bimal Balakrishnan, Tojan Rahhal, Enos Inniss, MU; Kamal Khayat, S&T; Tony Luppino, UMKC

This project seeks to advance system-level efforts to build a convergent research community around the concept of Future Urban Infrastructure, Integrating Smart Materials and Architecture – as envisioned in a National Science Foundation initiative backed by >$50 million funding. The goal of this proposal is to build and strengthen UM System research teams that can successfully compete for funding in this major national initiative, as well as gain support from industry and other agencies.

*Building Research Capacity for Geospatial-Enabled Data-Driven Discoveries (GED3)

  • PI: Chi-Ren Shyu, MU
  • Co-PIs: Eileen Avery, Grant Scott, Lincoln Sheets, Henry X. Wan, MU; Douglas Bowles, UMKC; Stephen S. Gao, S&T

Geospatial information, such as that that maps health disparities, crime density, environmental exposures and countless other datasets, is foundational to developing solutions to our greatest challenges; however, time and effort are often wasted reorganizing and reanalyzing the same public sources of information. This highly collaborative proposal aims to create innovative tools to efficiently organize geospatial resource data in a community-based repository for use across the UM System and beyond.

*Energy Reliability and Resiliency of Electrified Transportation Infrastructure

  • PI: Mehdi Ferdowsi, Missouri S&T
  • Co-PIs: Jonathan Kimball, Robert Landers, Ruwen Qin, S&T; Dan Lin, MU; Jianli Pan, UMSL

This proposal requests $3.65M to construct the Electrified Transportation Distribution System Laboratory (ETDSL), which will be used by a multidisciplinary, multi-university team to research, demonstrate and test new devices and systems for electrified transportation, including light rail, electric ships, renewable energy systems and electric vehicle charging stations. This project gives the UM System the opportunity to join only five U.S universities and two European universities that have research facilities of this type.

The Missouri Language and Literacies Center

  • PI: Candace Kuby, MU
  • Co-PIs: Matt Gordon, Mike Metz, Rob Petrone, Claire Syler, Angie Zapata

This proposal seeks to establish a national research center that will work to understand and support Missouri’s language and literacy education needs in the modern era of social media and rapid change. The Missouri Language and Literacies Center proposes to expand their work to use contemporary arts-based learning approaches, extensive linguistics knowledge, decades of reading and writing research and teaching expertise, as well as related knowledge in journalism and digital storytelling, to invest in Missouri’s economic and civic future.


About the Program

Each proposal must identify a principal investigator (PI) responsible for conducting the project and submitting a final report. Collaborative projects may have one or more co-principal investigators, Co-PIs (up to 5).

Click on a header to expand a selection and uncover additional information about the types of support and the application process.

Tier 1 Support

Tier 1 awards support purchases up to $4,000,000 for multi-user instrumentation and infrastructure needs.

  • Proposals in this tier will require a 100% match from the campus.
  • For example, for a proposal with a total cost of $4M, $2M will be provided by UM System and $2M from the campus.
  • Minimum request from UM System is $1M.

Tier 1 awards provide funds to purchase specialized, state-of-the-art, commercially available instruments that are needed to support projects in basic, translational, or clinical needs of research.  The goal of these awards is to enable faculty researchers to use and leverage the instruments and infrastructure to pursue center-level research projects. Instruments and infrastructure purchased through these awards must be available to all qualified users from the University of Missouri System (all four campuses).

Tier 1 funds will be used primarily for the acquisition of major equipment and not for renovation of laboratory space. Proposed budgets can include limited costs (e.g., machine shop expenses) for constructing, assembling and/or installing equipment, but the budget may not request funding for salaries of faculty, postdoctoral associates or students. Costs for continued operation and maintenance are not eligible for consideration.

Instruments should be integrated into a centralized facility, to encourage optimal sharing among individual investigators, research groups at the campus of installation as well as partners throughout the UM System to foster a collaborative multidisciplinary environment.


Tier 2 Support

Tier 2 awards support projects up to $750,000 over a two-year period.

  • Proposals in this tier will require a 50% match from the campus.
  • For example, for a proposal with a total cost of $750,000, $500,000 will be provided by UM System and $250,000 from the campus.
  • Minimum request from UM System is $250K.

There will be an emphasis in supporting grand challenge projects that lead to center-level research projects. Proposals may request salaries for personnel who are integrally involved in performing the research or creative activity. These include:

  • graduate research assistants (minimum of $18,000 per year)
  • undergraduate assistants (up to $3,000 per semester)
  • postdoctoral associates
  • visiting scholars
  • research assistants/associates
  • technicians and
  • special assistants

Neither the PI nor the Co-PIs are eligible to receive salary stipends, including summer salary support. Faculty, including non-tenure-track research faculty, on 11/12-month appointment are not eligible for salary support (Postdocs are the exception).

Calculate fringe benefits at no more than 35.62 percent for benefit eligible employees (current university rate); 0 percent for students; 8 percent for part time employees.

Small equipment, supplies, costs associated with travel to research sites, and other justified research expenses may be requested.

Teaching replacement costs will be considered when there is a strong justification for the applicant to be released from teaching during the academic year. With this support, recipients of any academic rank will be replaced by a teaching assistant or other qualified instructor. The maximum rate accepted is $10,000, including benefits per course, per semester. Arrangement for teaching replacement must be with the department chair. Requests should be for one semester. Requests exceeding two semesters will not be awarded.

Requests for other types of support will be considered if the request represents a critical research need or offers an important opportunity to promote scholarship and creativity. Some examples include:

  • a special library acquisition might have important implications for a particular faculty research effort
  • a workshop or conference might be needed to discuss an important new technology or to consolidate a substantial faculty group effort
  • travel to visit funding agencies to discuss research concepts

These examples are intended to be illustrative, not all-inclusive. Applicants are encouraged to present and justify only their most critical needs, recognizing that resources are limited in relation to the needs for research support.

Awards are not renewable. This mechanism will not be a source of continuing support for specific projects or facilities. Tier 2 awards are for a two-year period.


Tier 3 Support

Tier 3 awards support projects in the areas of arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences.

  • Proposals in this tier will require a 25% match from the campus.
  • For example, for a proposal with a total cost of $75,000, $56,250 will be provided by UM System and $18,750 from the campus.

This funding will help new faculty:

  • initiate their innovative creative work and research programs
  • provide seed money for preliminary creative work and research leading to external funding from federal agencies, foundations and donors
  • provide support for faculty beginning a new direction of their creative work and research
  • provide resources for excellent scholarship in fields for which external support may be quite limited.

Additional support will be available to fund projects that connect creative work and research in the arts, humanities, or social and behavioral sciences with the NextGen Precision Health Institute and to ultimately increase clinical translation and broad faculty participation.

Support will be provided up to $75,000 per proposal with a total UM System investment of up to $1M. Proposals will require a 25% match from the campus.

How do I apply?

Apply here:

When can I apply?

Proposals for each of the categories will be accepted through March 13, 2020, at 5 p.m.

Tier 3 Guidelines

Support Excluded from Consideration

Other types of support that are excluded are:

  • bridge funding
  • faculty may not receive salary as PI and Co-PI (summer or otherwise)
  • academic salaries for faculty on 9 or 11-month appointments (includes ranked, non-tenure track faculty)
  • student tuition or fees
  • graduate research assistantship appointments for greater than 50 percent time
  • stipends for graduate students not enrolled at the University during the academic year
  • salaries for emeritus professors
  • travel to meetings and symposia, or to principal sabbatical leave destinations
  • book publication subventions for non-refereed or commercial presses
  • computer time or data ports on University computers
  • dissertation preparation costs (copying, typing, binding)
  • construction and remodeling of facilities, equipment maintenance costs
  • professional dues/memberships/subscriptions
  • secretarial support
  • general departmental supplies

Application Process

Eligibility Guidelines

Tenured or tenure-track faculty members are eligible to apply as PI. Ranked, non-tenure-track research faculty may also apply. In exceptional cases that present advantages for the University, emeritus faculty may be considered for support.

Only one proposal from a PI will be considered in any review cycle.

Preferred projects

Projects featuring the following elements are highly preferred:

  • Plans to submit center-level projects that can significantly increase extramural research awards
  • Alignment of proposed efforts to federal agency initiatives
  • Support for undergraduate student researchers with research that can lead to NSF GRFP, NDSEG, Hertz, Ford and other prestigious graduate student fellowship proposals
  • Plans to submit nominations for national faculty awards for NSF, NEA, NEH, AAAS, Fulbright, National Academies, etc
  • Plans to increase high-quality publications
  • Plans to translate research for commercialization and practical applications
  • Meaningful collaborations across campuses
  • Meaningful collaborations with Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences faculty

Application Instructions

Complete the pre-proposal application template for Tier 1 or the pre-proposal application template for Tier 2, depending upon the type of funding you wish to secure.

Pre-proposals and full proposals (to be submitted upon invitation) must be submitted to the Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice Provost for Research at the PI’s university at the addresses below:


For AY19:

  • January 30, 2019 - Pre-proposals due to the Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice Provost for Research
  • February 15, 2019 - Pre-proposals due to UM System, with chancellor’s approval
  • February 15 - March 31, 2019 - Pre-proposal reviews to be completed
  • April 1, 2019 - Full proposal invitations complete
  • May 1, 2019 - Full proposals due at 5:00 p.m.
  • June 30, 2019 - Final funding decisions will be complete

Information related to Academic Year 2020 will be announced at a later date.


Reviewed 2020-10-08