Published on 9/21/17 in the Baltimore Business Journal

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh said one of the most important things he has had a hand in during his six-year tenure is establishing the strategic partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The five-year partnership, officially known as “MPowering the State,” is designed to grow research collaborations among the campuses. The initiative includes joint faculty appoints and academic offerings, shared resources and new cross-disciplinary research facilities, like the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance — to be housed in University of Maryland’s redesigned $155 million Cole Field House.

Loh said the initiative began as a melding of the minds between him and University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay Perman. It has since become law, so MPower will last beyond the tenure of both university leaders, he said Wednesday to members of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The partnership has already yielded some big returns for the schools. Inventions grew from about 80 to 331, dozens of startup companies have been built around university research and technologies being licensed and commercialized, and joint ventures have brought in over $120 million in research funding.

“We originally put about $10 million into this effort,” Loh said. “That’s a pretty big return on investment, I’d say.”

Loh pointed to some examples of how research partnerships are being utilized among the campuses:

  • A neurosurgeon from UMB is working with engineers from College Park to develop and test a small robot that could be used in surgeries to help remove difficult-to-reach brain tumors.
  • The University of Maryland Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center, a collaborative effort between the two campuses, is working to investigate, confront and prevent human trafficking along the I-95 corridor.
  • Joint research center, the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, was recently awarded a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine for the hepatitis C virus.
  • Doctors from UMB and physicists from UMd. are also looking into ways to improve football helmet technologies to reduce concussions, and develop technologies to reduce pain without the need for any kind of medicinal intervention.

These projects represent the kinds of achievements that can come when people from different schools and disciplines work together, Loh said. And beyond their potential to change people’s and patients’ lives, Loh said the MPower partnerships could also help fuel local economic growth in the state.

“We need interdisciplinary work to solve today’s problems — how to better feed, better house, better transport,” he said. “These are companies and products that can transform an industry and create jobs.”