Advancing Knowledge - Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges

IU Bloomington will harness strengths in every field to identify & address grand challenges: initiatives that attack big questions and whose answers lie beyond the frontiers of current knowledge.

This aligns with IU Bloomington Bicentennial Objective Six.

Identifying challenges

Goal: Identify, with our faculty and deans, up to five grand challenges over the next five years that require collaborations among disciplines, departments, and schools. Invest in the resources such as new faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and infrastructure to address the challenges.

Update: IU’s Grand Challenges Program is a commitment to address large-scale human problems through the application of research from across disciplines and the collaboration of community partners. The program leverages the combined power of researchers across the IU system to address the economic, social, and environmental problems impacting our state and the world. Researchers from the Bloomington campus are making substantial contributions to all three current Grand Challenge initiatives. In March 2019, total Grand Challenge faculty hires at IU Bloomington totaled 12 in 11 departments and four schools: the College, School of Public Health-Bloomington, School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and the Media School.

Precision Health Initiative

IU’s first Grand Challenges Initiative, launched in June 2016, is focused on getting the right prevention or treatment to the right patient at the right time. 

The Precision Health Initiative is unique among such projects in the U.S. because of the contributions of IU Bloomington researchers.

In July 2018, IUB faculty from the Indiana University Network Science Institute and Center for Survey Research began a statewide effort—the Person-to-Person Health Interview Study—to interview a representative sample of 2,000 Hoosiers in order to understand and solve Indiana’s health problems. This landmark study will provide rich data on Hoosiers’ health, the challenges they face, and the communities in which they live, which will be layered into their electronic medical records and genetic profiles to assist with treatment. Funding from IU’s third Grand Challenge, Responding to the Addictions Crisis, expanded the pool of interviewees by 750. Study participants come from counties especially hard-hit by the opioid epidemic. New questions have also been created about opioid attitudes and experiences.Thus far, this initiative has led to seven faculty hires from six departments and three schools, with more being considered.

  • The Person-to-Person Health Interview Study team is helping to gather a full picture of how health is affected by factors such as social and physical environments, cultures, behaviors, and genetics. The study team is performing in-person surveys of 2,000 Hoosiers, including collecting saliva samples for genetic testing.
  • This initiative is also closely connected to the IU Center for Rural Engagement.
  • The IU Center for AIDS Research is also providing $75,000 for the collection of additional rural cases. Sampling design and survey programming are being extended and tested to accommodate the new sub-studies.
  • Data workflows have been finalized in collaboration with Regenstrief and the Indiana Biobank, and OVPR continues to develop outreach strategies with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and CTSI/PHI communications teams for help in socializing the survey and reduce wariness in communities.
Informatics in Precision Health Initiative

The Informatics in Precision Health Initiative focuses on gestational diabetes, including the prevention of its transition to Type 2 diabetes, and the personalized interventions for those with gestational diabetes. The Genetics of Gestational Diabetes Model project will be accomplished by using existing 10,000 samples from the National Institutes of Health Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-to-Be, also known as nuMoM2b, and a new Hoosier Moms Cohort focused on pregnant women in Indiana. Preliminary estimates of genetic risk for gestational diabetes in the Indiana population have already been developed. IU Bloomington's Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics is now preparing the more than 10,000 samples in the Genetics of Gestational Diabetes Model project. Researchers will use health informatics and big data analytics to further explore genetic risks as well as mitigations to reduce the transformation to Type 2 diabetes.

IU Health and Eskenazi clinics in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and a third site, likely Muncie, will be used to recruit pregnant women for the Hoosier Moms Cohort. Through a pilot study, members of the Hoosier Mom’s Cohort are testing out wearables infrastructure.

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