By Ronald Kaplan, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

In this issue of Catalyst, we highlight new ISTC member Rosalind Franklin University (RFU) and their efforts to accelerate health innovation in Illinois.


Rosalind Franklin University (RFU) in North Chicago is a growing hub for basic science and translational research in Illinois. We have grown our federal research funding by 80 percent since 2008 and now, we’re stepping up our investment with the construction of a new, state-of-the-art, Innovation and Research Park. The expansion will serve as a hub for life science research in Lake County, which boasts the highest concentration of pharmaceutical, diagnostic and medical device companies in the Midwest. It will foster collaboration among university and industry scientists and life science entrepreneurs, with the goal of moving our research beyond our laboratories into development, which can improve health and wellness and help grow our local and regional economy.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the park, which will be located on our campus, adjacent to Great Lakes Naval Station and the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, two of our many research and clinical partners, was held in September. Preparatory construction begins in October for the 100,000 square foot facility, which will feature cutting-edge wet labs and office, incubation, and meeting space. The project is expected to generate an estimated 500 direct new jobs. A study by Lake County Partners, the county’s principal economic development group, forecasts a total economic regional impact of $117 million per year.  

Street view architectural rendering of RFU Innovation and Research Park


Our research park will serve as a center for life science research and development and will help speed innovation, which largely derives from research-based medical schools. Lake County’s life science industry, which includes manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, medical devices, hospital products, and agricultural and biotech firms in addition to related services, comprises more than 120 companies and 33,000 jobs, according to Lake County Partners. Companies include Abbvie, Abbott Labs, Baxter, Takeda, Shire, Lundbeck, Horizon Pharma, Fresenius Kabi, Omron and Valent Bioscience (Sumitomo).  

The Innovation and Research Park will house 175 university and industry researchers with approximately 34,000 square feet of space designated for commercial startups and small to mid-size biotech firms. RFU is in discussions with several industry partners about prospective collaborations and international companies looking to expand to the United States.

We’re working with the SmartHealth Activator, a Lake County-based incubator focused on the commercialization of biotechnology coming out of Midwest universities, to increase the number of new companies formed by RFU faculty entrepreneurs. One of the most, NeuroLucent, was named “Best University Startup” in 2016 by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer — the only Illinois-based firm selected for the honor. Founded by RFU neuroscientist Grace “Beth” Stutzmann, the company is working to move promising new therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease into the pharmaceutical pipeline, including a compound that could yield the first medication to effectively treat AD’s most devastating symptoms.

RFU faculty startups are also working to translate medical discoveries into improved therapeutics and diagnostics for cancer and fibrotic disease, stroke, cardiac resuscitation and vaccine delivery. Our many NIH-funded scientists conduct biomedical research in 12 major areas, including drug discovery and development, cystic fibrosis, stem cell and regenerative medicine, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and traumatic brain injury.

Rosalind Franklin University’s is committed to health innovation in our state and nation. Our new Innovation and Research Park, and our membership in the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, are evidence of that commitment.  Working in collaboration with with Lake County’s corporate community and life science industry, while also cultivating our own culture of entrepreneurship, we can put our science to work to improve health and save lives.  



ISTC Welcomes New Members and Board of Directors

In addition to Rosalind Franklin University, ISTC/I would like to welcome Uptake Technologies, Inc. and Wintrust Bank as corporate members of the Coalition.

Uptake Technologies, Inc. develops a predictive analytics platform. Its platform analyzes data to predict and prevent failures, uncover hidden profits, and discover new opportunities to healthcare, insurance, locomotives, construction, manufacturing, and other industries. The company was incorporated in 2014 and is based in Chicago, Illinois.Uptake is transforming industry with their unrivaled data science and predictive analytics. Monitoring assets in over 94 countries, Uptake’s power data-driven businesses and deliver greater value to global companies by putting super-charged decision-making power into the hands of their customers.

Wintrust Bank, a financial holding company offering community and commercial banking, wealth management, and mortgage services, has served Chicago’s communities since 1991. As a locally-based and locally-run company—and a family of true community banks—Wintrust believes in investing in, and giving back to, the areas it serves. The WintrustCommunity Bank family has more than 150 community bank locations across the Chicagoland area, southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana and each serve as a one-stop-shop for any personal or business financial need. Wintrust also believes in going above and beyond banking solutions to serve as a real asset and resource for the people and organizations it partners with.

ISTC/I is also proud to announce three new members to our board of directors:

  • Morgan Vawter, Chief Analytics Director at Caterpillar, Inc.
  • Chiara Piccinotti, Director, Data Visualization at Uptake
  • Paul Bloom, Vice President, Process and Chemical Research at Archer Daniels Midland Company

Featured Event: BioPathways Speakers Series

Presented by Rosalind Franklin University and SmartHealth Activator, BioPathways is a monthly bioseries, featuring prominent bioentrepreneurs, biotech executives and biotech venture capitalists in a fireside chat. They will also feature a guest biotech startup in a quick pitch. October’s marquee guest is Dr. James E. (Jim) Audia, Executive Director, Chicago Biomedical Consortium presenting “Translating Chicago’s Medical Research into New Therapies and Diagnostics”. To learn more or register for this free event, visit

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