Research at Dell Medical School

Image: Lab with experiments set up.

The Dell Medical School, expected to launch in 2016, will draw on the university’s existing research strengths, including cell and molecular biology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, chemistry, public health, sociology, psychology, health care delivery systems and health care policy. The school will also be integrated with the university’s well-regarded programs in nursing, pharmacy and social work to prepare physicians for the health care system of the future. The result will be innovations that improve the way people receive health care.

Here are some examples of the cutting-edge research that is already happening at The University of Texas at Austin that will help shape the Dell Medical School:

Dell Pediatric Research Institute

The Dell Pediatric Research Institute (DPRI) is The University of Texas at Austin’s new state-of-the-art medical research facility designed to advance understanding of childhood diseases and disorders and help take pediatric care in Central Texas to a new level. DPRI is located and next to the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas on the former site of Robert Mueller Municipal Airport.

DPRI fosters collaboration among researchers in health-related disciplines at The University of Texas at Austin and also engages the UT System’s renowned health institutions, thus bringing together cutting-edge medical expertise across the UT System. The ultimate goal is to improve children’s health in Central Texas and beyond.

Three broad research focus areas have been identified that address critical issues in maternal and child health: cancer, including pediatric and hormone-related cancers; childhood nutrition, metabolism and obesity prevention; and neurodevelopmental disorders and birth defects, including inherited metabolic diseases of childhood.

DPRI was created as a result of a $38 million challenge grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The foundation’s commitment has inspired generous gifts from other private donors including the RGK Foundation, the Bank of America Foundation and the Topfer family and a significant investment from The University of Texas.

Cockrell School of Engineering

  • Drug delivery
  • Health information system for preventative health care
  • Laser usage for accelerated drug research for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Tumor diagnostics using nanoparticles
  • Noninvasive skin cancer detection
  • Predictive modeling for cardiac treatment
  • Process analysis for better health care delivery system

Moody College of Communication

  • Communication sciences and disorders
  • Health promotion and communication
  • Media coverage of health care, science
  • Online patient support, e-visit programs
  • Patient education and counseling

College of Education

  • Autism
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Exercise science
  • Muscle regeneration
  • Neuromuscular physiology

College of Liberal Arts

  • Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention and treatment
  • Aging and eldercare
  • Addiction research
  • Brain injury recovery and sensory processes
  • Cognitive development
  • Health disparities
  • Learning and memory
  • Population Health
  • Optical research
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Treatment and prevention for mental illnesses including PTSD, depression, OCD, anxiety, ADHD, autism

College of Natural Sciences

  • Alcohol and addiction
  • Birth defect biology and treatment
  • Cancer biology, treatment and diagnostics
  • Health information technology
  • Infectious disease and epidemiology
  • Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and epilepsy
  • Obesity and nutrition

College of Pharmacy

  • Chemical biology/drug delivery
  • Health outcomes research
  • Oncology
  • Infectious disease
  • Neuropharmacology and addiction
  • Toxicology and environmental disease
  • Translational research in drug delivery

LBJ School of Public Affairs

  • Clinical and health policy research
  • Evaluation of health care practices and interventions
  • Health care reform research and practice
  • Measurement of clinical/medical and social costs and benefits of health care innovation

McCombs School of Business

  • Improving use of electronic health records
  • Improving accounting and financial metrics and practices for use in healthcare
  • Organizational practices for better outcomes in large healthcare organizations
    • Structuring relationships of inpatient healthcare teams 
    • Improving organization and team learning
    • Patient-centered medical care
    • Promoting the generation and adoption of healthcare innovation 
  • Process analysis, scheduling and quality improvement for better healthcare outcomes
    • Improving patient transitions in the healthcare process
    • Using computer simulation for improved healthcare delivery
  • Understanding and improving minority health, health care and health disparities

School of Information

  • Health informatics

School of Law

  • Bioethics
  • Genetics and the law
  • Health law
  • Mental health law
  • Psychology and the law
  • Science, technology and the law

School of Nursing

  • Adolescent health
  • Aging and gerontology
  • Behavioral health interventions
  • Community-based interventions
  • Self-management of chronic conditions (diabetes, asthma, cancer, MS)

School of Social Work

  • Addiction causes and treatment
  • Behavioral health (smoking, eating disorders)
  • Cancer care
  • Mental health
  • Mental health and substance abuse

Other university units that will be supportive of health-related research include:

Commercialization of medical research

As a powerhouse research institution, The University of Texas at Austin already has the infrastructure to bring its medical discoveries to the marketplace. During the past five years the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) has spun out 37 startup companies and executed 191 license and option agreements based on its research. During that same period, OTC has generated $82.7 million in licensing and royalty revenue for the university.

One such medical discovery is the invention of a novel process for embedding the drug Oxycontin into a polymer so that it can only be released slowly as it goes through the stomach and the intestine. This makes Oxycontin tamper-resistant and has allowed pain sufferers to obtain an effective drug that had been taken off the market. It also has been licensed, with the university receiving ensuing royalties.