ALRI Strategic Plan to Spur Research to Improve Human Condition

  • February 16th, 2021

A strategic plan launched by the Alabama Life Research Institute is the blueprint for expanding broad life science and health research on campus and strengthening The University of Alabama’s efforts to improve quality of life across the state.

The name of the Alabama Life Research Institute in silver on a red wall.
ALRI serves as a focal point for interdisciplinary biopsychosocial research that seeks to investigate the human condition, from the molecular to the environmental, with the goal of improving the lives of the people of Alabama and beyond.

The four-year strategic plan calls for interdisciplinary collaborations, both on campus and with industry, that tackle big, systemic challenges that UA’s researchers and capabilities are uniquely positioned to pursue.

“Recent and ongoing investments into areas supported by the Alabama Life Research Institute allow for transformative projects needed to advance the University’s mission and engage communities across the state,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “By leveraging our capabilities and relationships, our researchers can have a positive impact on our health and well-being.”

ALRI is a university-wide institute that serves as a focal point for interdisciplinary biopsychosocial research that seeks to investigate the human condition at all levels, from the molecular to the environmental, with the goal of improving the lives of the people of Alabama and beyond. The ALRI collaborates with other UA centers, other institutions, health care corporations, governmental agencies and community-based organizations.

The plan calls for providing resources that foster larger, influential science projects, which includes creating research cores around statistics and biostatistics, big data and artificial intelligence, and health data analytics.

ALRI will also create training programs and initiatives that develop the skills of students and researchers to produce world-class research related to the institute’s mission.

“Our forward-thinking strategic plan supports researchers in contributing solutions and understanding to some of society’s most vexing issues,” said Dr. Sharlene Newman, ALRI executive director. “The plan is a recognition of the University’s strengths while also a promise to extend the innovation on campus into the community to better people’s lives.”

The strategic plan breaks down ALRI’s core research into five themes:

  • Rural health and health disparities
  • Neuroscience
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Environmental sciences and health
  • Implementation science

Dr. Marcia Hay-McCutheon, professor of communicative disorders, will lead the theme of rural health and health disparities. Research under this theme aims to uncover the mechanisms responsible for disparate health outcomes and develop and implement interventions to improve the health of all Alabamians.

Dr. Rajesh Kana, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Innovative Research in Autism, will head the neuroscience theme where research investigates the mechanisms that underlie neurodevelopment, typical and atypical functioning, and disorders.

“The plan is a recognition of the University’s strengths while also a promise to extend the innovation on campus into the community to better people’s lives.”

The bioscience theme will be directed by Dr. Ravi Kumar, a professor in the College of Community Health Sciences and the College of Engineering. Researchers working in this area will develop new therapeutics and delivery methods and translate them to clinical studies.

The environmental science and health theme encompasses projects that seek to understand the cumulative exposures and interactions of environmental toxins that affect health and disease across the lifespan. The lead for the theme will be announced soon.

Dr. Nicole Powell, associate director and research scientist for the UA Center for Youth Development and Intervention, will lead the theme of implementation science. Research in this theme plays a critical role in optimizing, adapting and promoting interventions in treatment and prevention, particularly in implementing evidence-based research in rural communities.

The ALRI strategic plan lays out goals for each theme and leaves open the possibility of additional themes if opportunities and faculty support emerge.

The full plan is available on the institute’s website.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.