UI to propose new Hawkeye Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

The University of Iowa will present a proposal for a new Hawkeye Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center in the Carver College of Medicine to the state Board of Regents on Wednesday.


Isabella Cervantes

The Roy J. And Lucille A. Carver Biomedical Research Building captured on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The University of Iowa will request approval from the state Board of Regents on Wednesday for a new Hawkeye Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center in the Carver College of Medicine.

The mission of the new center is to provide an organizational structure that fully integrates basic and clinical research across the lifespan that is focused on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and amelioration of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The center will be tailored to an underserved rural population according to the proposal.

“This proposed center was recently awarded a $6.2 million P50 Center Grant through the National Institutes of Health, and will leverage decades of clinical excellence, community engagement and educational programs for those in Iowa with disabilities,” the proposal states.

Rachel Boon, the regents’ chief academic officer, said the proposal must go through multiple levels of approval before being presented to the regents.

Boon first has to review it, then she passes it along to the Council of Provosts and after they approve the proposal it is passed along to the Academic Affairs Committee.

“[The Academic Affairs Committee] in a public meeting will then consider the proposal and if that committee also approves it, what they will do is put it on to the consent agenda for the full board,” Boon said. “The full board would then have an opportunity to vote it up or down at the same meeting, because the committee would meet prior to the full board convening.”

The proposal outlines that the center is needed to integrate the university’s science and clinical research efforts in the area of intellectual and developmental disabilities to create a collaborative, cohesive, and transparent center that will allow for maximization of research efforts on campus.

“This will help to improve research productivity with a focus on outcomes for underserved rural populations within Iowa and beyond and help UI continue to have visibility and a connection to the community of patients and their families,” the proposal states.

Additionally, the document states the center will help increase visibility locally and nationally for the university. It also plans to enhance the reputation of the UI’s Leadership Education for Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program.

The increase of visibility will help recruiting efforts, retention of talented faculty, and the goal to seek major philanthropic gifts to support their mission.

The center will have four components:

  • The Hawk-IDDRC Research Project will examine the interaction of genetic and epigenetic/environmental risks in young children with developmental disabilities, including autism, and integrate services from all four research cores.
  • A dissemination and communication plan that ensures the center’s research is effectively communicated to the scientific community, educators, policy makers, government officials and the public, in an engaging and timely manner.
  • An educational program, involving basic and clinical scientists, trainees, the public and IDD-affected families, that will feature monthly seminars, mentoring of young and talented investigators focused on IDD research, and an educational program aimed at the lay public and IDD community.

The fourth component are the four research cores the center plans to have to facilitate interdisciplinary and translational research, including:

  • An administrative core that provides leadership to ensure cost-effective and rigorous IDD research, while inspiring interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.
  • A clinical translational core to apply basic science discoveries into clinical settings by streamlining patient recruitment and phenotyping, biobanking and implementing clinical trials for the development of novel treatments that can be employed across the lifespan.
  • A developmental genomic/epigenetics core, which will use RNA/exome/whole genome sequencing to uncover intrinsic genetic variation and the contributions of extrinsic (environmental and experiential) factors on epigenetic regulation, and the association of these with IDD.
  • And a neurocircuitry and behavior core, which will assess both animal and human neural circuit development and function, electrophysiology, and behavior.

The date of implementation for the center will be determined upon approval by the regents on Wednesday.