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Research Impact

Saint Louis University research is steeped in our history and guides our future. From the discovery of the life-saving properties of vitamin K to the development of computer-guided surgery technology, at SLU our researchers explore new frontiers and tackle tough questions.

Students in a Research Lab

Guided by a Mission

The work of SLU Research is compassionate, transformative, and innovative.

The research done at SLU reflects our university's Jesuit values and our desire to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. The work of our researchers addresses the greatest issues facing our world today, while striving to help our local community in St. Louis grow into a more equitable and innovative one. 

In 2002, we joined visionaries who predicted St. Louis could become a hub of bioscience and technology innovation, founding Cortex, an innovation community fueling scientific discovery, entrepreneurism and economic growth in the region. Our Research Innovation Group is located in the heart of the Cortex Innovation Community and turns SLU discoveries into startups that aim to cure deadly pulmonary fibrosis, alleviate pain without addiction, treat cancer, diagnose hepatitis C and fuel airplanes more efficiently

At SLU Research, we seek to live out our motto in all we do: "Igniting Discovery, Transforming Lives." 

Research Projects

SLU is a comprehensive research university, and our research interests span the academic spectrum. Below is a small sampling of the research done every day at SLU. 

Follow the latest news and events from SLU Research, and follow us on Twitter at @SLUResearch

The Center for Vaccine Development

The Center for Vaccine Development at SLU is a leader in the nation. Our researchers there have previously studied the bird flu and the Zika virus, and they are currently gearing up to begin trials for a universal flu vaccine.

Learn more about the Center for Vaccine Development

SLU Drug Discovery and Development Group

The Saint Louis University Drug Discovery and Development Group (SLU-D3G) is a multidisciplinary association of researchers with a shared interest in drug development.

Learn more about SLU-D3G 

University Research Initiatives

SLU is in the process of identifying and investing in collaborative programs that will establish SLU as a leading destination for research, training, and innovation in a given topic or area. This multi-year competition began with a call for "Big Ideas" from SLU researchers, and offers increasing levels of investment for projects that demonstrate broad faculty engagement, strong leadership, and compelling research plans. The Big Ideas competition builds on SLU’s research growth goal of creating university-wide strategic research priorities.

SLU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the Research Growth Committee are pleased to announce the winners of the first round of Big Ideas planning grants, which can be viewed below.

Planning Grants

Three proposals were selected to move forward with $50,000 planning grants to advance their ideas prior to submitting a full research and business plan in six to nine months.

Planning for the Development of a SLU Center for Systems Biology

Leadership Team:

  • Daniel Hoft, infectious diseases, School of Medicine
  • Jim Edwards, chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Maureen Donlin, biochemistry and molecular biology, School of Medicine
  • Haijun Gong, mathematics and statistics, College of Arts and Sciences

Systems biology research represents one of the most cutting-edge areas in the biomedical fields with great potential to improve our understanding of complex mammalian processes. Research discoveries in systems biology can be translated into new treatments and preventive strategies for maintaining optimal public health.

At Saint Louis University, a highly collaborative group of diverse scientists have already begun to plan for the development a SLU Center for Systems Biology. This group has found great success in developing a world-class systems biology group focused on infectious disease and vaccinology research, and is currently building new strengths at the university in more diverse biomedical areas of systems biology.

The group will bring in leading experts in the field as consultants to advise them on what gaps in expertise are needed to optimize the group’s strengths in the area. There are many potential revenue sources in systems biology research, and these world-class advisers will provide their best advice to help the group become maximally competitive with large grant applications. The existing group has already received a VTEU award exceeding $6 million, and they are confident they will soon become competitive for even larger projects. A systems biology seminar series will also be initiated to further increase expertise and contacts in the field, and the group will complete small pilot projects for generation of publishable data.

The WATER Institute

Leadership Team:

  • Amanda Cox, civil engineering, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
  • Liz Hasenmueller, earth and atmospheric sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Craig Adams, civil engineering, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology

Though there are many challenges related to water resources today, the National Academy of Engineering lists three grand challenges related to water: providing access to clean water, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, and managing the nitrogen cycle. The Water Access, Technology, Environment and Resources (WATER) Institute at Saint Louis University will address all of these challenges by leveraging the expertise of SLU faculty, serving as both an incubator for externally-funded ideas, and by acting as a catalyst for enhanced regional, national and international research collaborations. This institute will focus on developing solutions for water in the built environment, protecting aquatic ecosystems and water supply, and developing clean water access worldwide. There are several sources of potential grant funding for this work including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Water Research Foundation.

There is currently no comprehensive water research institute in the American Midwest and there is also a large gap in urban water research. SLU is uniquely positioned to fill both of these roles given its location in the city of St. Louis and the city’s location at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

The ultimate goal of the WATER Institute is in line with the Jesuit values of Saint Louis University: to serve humanity by addressing public health issues related to water in developed and developing nations and to protect society from natural and man-made water-related disasters.

GeoSLU: Geospatial Research, Training and Innovation

Leadership Team:

  • Vasit Sagan, earth and atmospheric Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ness Sandoval, sociology and anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

Geospatial science and technology research is a multibillion-dollar industry, and people with advanced geospatial skills are increasingly in demand in the workforce. Saint Louis University has a unique opportunity to coordinate and grow the already rich geospatial research and training underway at the university to become a major player in geospatial research, training and innovation.

GeoSLU: The SLU Geospatial Research, Training and Innovation Enterprise will be a consortium of faculty and students from various disciplines that will promote and develop new research ideas and house high-tech computational facilities to advance research, and enhance graduate and undergraduate education. The GeoSLU enterprise will be built upon three pillars: research, data support services and teaching and training services.

The GeoSLU team has already identified several new resources and activities that will enhance the enterprise’s ability to pursue and win new grants in geospatial research. These include pursuing U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) accreditation of a Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) certificate at SLU and a new partnership with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) that will promote funded research.

The Research Growth Committee also received a variety of projects that do not currently fit the Big Idea criteria and is providing small seed funds to enable the teams to continue to collaborate.

Five groups received preliminary planning grants to further grow their ideas.

Preliminary Planning Grants

Saint Louis University Drug Discovery and Development

Leadership Team:

  •  John Tavis, molecular microbiology and immunology, School of Medicine
  • Marvin Meyers, chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Jack Kennell, biology, College of Arts and Sciences
Healthy Living

Leadership Team:

  •  Tricia Austin, physical therapy, Doisy College of Health Sciences
  • Gretchen Salsich, physical therapy, Doisy College of Health Sciences
  • Jeremiah Weinstock, psychology, College of Arts and Sciences
Health Informatics

Leadership Team:

  •  Leslie Hinyard, Saint Louis University Center for Health Outcomes Research, School of Medicine
  • William Manard, chief medical informatics officer, SLU Care; and family and community medicine, School of Medicine
Healing Justice and Equity

Leadership Team:

  •  Kira Banks, psychology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Amber Johnson, communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Michael Vaughn, social work, College of Public Health and Social Justice
  • Takako Nomi, School of Education
  • Ruqaijah Yearby, School of Law
Institute of Materials Science for Medicine: From Design to Application

Leadership Team:

  •  Ryan McCulla, chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Scott Martin, chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Scott Sell, biomedical engineering, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
  • Steve Buckner, chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences

In a few cases, the Research Growth Committee received multiple proposals on related topics and is encouraging the teams to explore the potential for their respective projects to become part of a more inclusive Big Idea.

Four proposals were endorsed by the Research Growth Committee as likely college-level research priorities that may have potential to grow into university-wide initiatives.

Endorsed by the Research Growth Committee

Saint Louis University Center for Food and the Environment

Leadership Team: 

  • Allison Miller, biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Flannery Burke, history, College of Arts and Sciences
Center for Translational Chronic Pain Research

Leadership Team:

  • Daniela Salvemini, pharmacological and physiological science, School of Medicine 
Developing a Saint Louis University Sepsis Center

Leadership Team:

  • David Ford, biochemistry and molecular biology, School of Medicine
  • Blythe Janowiak Mulligan, biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Jane McHowat, pathology, School of Medicine 
SLU Center for Urban Education Policy and Economic Growth (UEPEG)

Leadership Team:

  •  Takako Nomi, School of Education
  • Gary Ritter, School of Education
  • Heather Bednarek, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business
  • Michael Podgursky, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business

The Research Growth Committee also received a variety of projects that do not currently fit the Big Idea criteria and is providing small seed funds to enable the teams to continue to collaborate.

For more information about this process, contact Jasmin Patel, assistant vice president for Research Strategy, at jasmin.patel@slu.edu.