Carver Department of Biomedical Engineering strives to lead pulmonary, respiratory disease research

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust’s $12 million grant will go toward the Carver Department of Biomedical Engineering’s research in pulmonary and respiratory diseases over the next eight years.


Gaoyuan Pan

The Carver College of Medicine is pictured on April 4, 2018.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Over the course of the next eight years, the Carver Charitable Trust will partner with the Carver Biomedical Engineering Department, thanks to a $12 million grant. 

Researchers will develop new coursework, hire five new faculty members and around 20 graduate students, and research respiratory and pulmonary medicine, Professor Joseph Reinhardt said. 

“The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust is an amazing organization, and we are absolutely delighted to partner with it in its quest to advance scientific knowledge and improve human health,” College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “This most recent gift will undoubtedly lead to groundbreaking advances and innovations and will position the Department of Biomedical Engineering as a global leader in improving the lives of countless people who suffer from respiratory and pulmonary disorders.”

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For the next five years, the department will hire a new faculty member each year and use funds from the Carver Charitable Trust to fund their research labs and projects. The department would like faculty who not only are on the cutting edge of lung-disease research, Reinhardt said, but also those who emphasize the connection between their research and education for students. 

Reinhardt hopes the grant attracts students, graduate students, and faculty members. The main goal, however, is changing the lives of those suffering from respiratory and pulmonary diseases.

The Carver Charitable Trust has assisted in funding projects totaling $3 million for the Biomedical Engineering Department in the last 15 to 20 years, trust Executive Administrator Troy Ross said. 

You develop a relationship as these projects are funded over the years, and the trust became familiar with what was happening in that department.

— Troy Ross, executive administrator

Because of the long relationship between the two, the trust quite willing to grant the money to the department after officials proposed the research effort, Ross said. 

“You develop a relationship as these projects are funded over the years, and the trust became familiar with what was happening in that department,” Ross said. “When we were approached, we were familiar with the programmatic goals. 

“With that foundation in place, the Carver Trust felt there was an opportunity for a unique investment here, and the right people were in place to make [the research] happen.”

The Carver Trust awarded the department a $12 million grant to be dispersed over the course of eight years. With the large grant coinciding with the $3 million given over the last two decades, the department proposed a name change in November, Ross said. 

The newly renamed Carver Biomedical Engineering Department hope the grant will aid it in groundbreaking research and make the UI a leading name in respiratory and pulmonary medicine, Reinhardt said. 

The new faculty and graduate students and the biomedical engineering curriculum will focus on medical devices, drug development, new materials, biomechanics related to the lung-disease medicine, he said. Lung disease is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., he noted.

“We had thrown a number of ideas around, and [pulmonary and respiratory research] was the one that seemed to get the most traction; we explored that more deeply. We needed to convince [the Carver Trust] that this is a significant area that they should invest in,” Reinhardt said.