Groundbreaking set for June 2 for CSU transactional medicine research institute

Friday May 26, 2017 0 comments Tags: Fort Collins, CSU, C. Wayne Mcllwraith, Tony Frank, John & Leslie Malone, Dr. Mark Stetter

FORT COLLINS -- Colorado State University’s newest state-of-the-art research facility will become a reality starting June 2, when the university breaks ground for an institute that promises medical innovations by harnessing the body’s healing powers to help animals and people suffering from a wide range of disease.

The $65 million facility -- called the C. Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute -- is named for a veterinarian who built a remarkable clinical and research enterprise in orthopaedic medicine for horses during nearly 40 years at CSU.CSU_logoUSE_1

McIlwraith, a University Distinguished Professor and founding director of CSU’s Orthopaedic Research Center, is an international pioneer in equine arthroscopic surgery and research into biological therapies based on living cells and their products, including novel protein and stem-cell therapies that help heal injured and degraded joints.

Many of McIlwraith’s findings regarding the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of equine joint injury and disease have been translated into orthopaedic advancements for people -- known as “translational medicine.”

On June 2 at 1 p.m. the university will host a groundbreaking ceremony at the institute site, off Drake Road north of the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Speakers will include McIlwraith, CSU President Tony Frank, and telecommunications magnate and philanthropist John Malone.

Facility completion is expected in late fall 2018.

John and Leslie Malone provided the transformational lead gift of $42.5 million to establish the research institute, prompted by their interest in the regenerative power of stem-cell therapies for horses and humans.

CSU said the Malones became intrigued by the concept of the Translational Medicine Institute after their horses at Harmony Sporthorses near Denver were successfully treated with orthopaedic procedures developed by McIlwraith and his CSU colleagues.

Adding to the Malones’ gift, Princess Abigail K. Kawananakoa of Hawaii, a direct descendant of the Hawaiian royal family and celebrated breeder of racing American Quarter Horses, donated the institute’s naming gift of $20 million.

McIlwraith has contributed to the success of Princess Abigail’s stable by supporting the orthopaedic health of her racehorses, inspiring her to give generously and to ask that the new facility be named for her longtime friend and colleague.

Her $20 million gift was announced in spring 2016 but was credited to an anonymous donor. As institute planning progressed and its name was cemented, Princess Abigail decided to reveal her identity to help draw attention to her friend’s legacy.

“I’ve known Wayne for 30 years, and he has provided the world’s best orthopaedic care for my horses. During this time, I’ve gained insights into the work of the CSU Orthopaedic Research Center and have seen first-hand how its discoveries improve horse health with novel approaches to treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation,” said Abigail, who received an honorary doctorate from CSU in 2016 acknowledging her committed support for science, native Hawaiian culture and education.

“I am honored to help Wayne and his colleagues deliver new findings that will improve medical care even more broadly for animals and people,” she said.

The university community is grateful for the support of visionary philanthropists who are helping to realize McIlwraith’s ambitious goals in medical innovation, Frank said.

CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, home base for the new institute, has a long tradition of creating new knowledge in veterinary medicine that also benefits human health, with its achievements in canine cancer and equine orthopaedics compelling examples.

“Wayne is an exceptional educator and researcher, both in the clinical research sense and in the basic research sense,” said Frank. “He is a leader of engagement, connecting the university and his field more broadly to donors.

“And these donors have stepped up and provided tens of millions of dollars to build facilities around Wayne’s vision,” Frank said, when introducing McIlwraith as a recent presenter in the President’s Community Lecture Series.

“Whatever academic currency one would like to trade in – publications, book chapters, invited lectures, awards, recognitions, honorary degrees, success of students, and global impact of work -- Dr. McIlwraith is among the leaders in his field,” Frank said.

Translational medicine is possible because animals and humans share many aspects of physiology – and naturally develop strikingly similar diseases over their lifetimes, making veterinary medicine essential in advancing discoveries that improve human health and wellbeing, said Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The C. Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute will draw on established areas of CSU research expertise in orthopaedics, biomedical engineering, immunology, infectious disease, surgical advances, and other medical fields.

As a foundational asset of the Translational Medicine Institute, the Orthopaedic Research Center will retain its focus, staffing and expansive research portfolio.

CSU said the institute will bring together educators and innovators from academia, industry, public agencies and other entities to pursue development of promising medical technologies, with special attention to those presenting potential for commercialization.

Its cutting-edge equipment, research space, clinical resources and conference areas are designed to support this collaboration among animal and human medical specialists, the university said.

“It’s humbling. I’m honored,” McIlwraith said. “Few people get such recognition when they’re mere faculty members. It’s still sinking in.

“I have to admit that I was apprehensive about what people would think, with my name being on it. But the complete support of everybody here, thinking it is appropriate, is probably more touching than actually having my name put on it.

“That's really nice, and I'm very excited that we've got groundbreaking set. It’s the culmination of what we have built at the Orthopaedic Research Center and reflects the excellence of our team."