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CU bonds earn strong ratings from Moody’s

Moody’s Investors Service announced Monday it has assigned a rating of Aa1 to the University of Colorado’s proposed up to $156 million University Enterprise Refunding Revenue Bonds, Taxable Series 2020B-2, with a proposed final maturity in fiscal 2048. Moody’s also assigned a Aa1/VMIG 1 rating to $225 million in proposed multimodal University Enterprise Revenue Bonds, Series 2020A-1 (Variable Rate Demand Bonds) (Green Bonds), Series 2020A-2 (Variable Rate Demand Bonds) and University Enterprise Refunding Revenue Bonds, Series 2020B-1 (Variable Rate Demand Bonds).

Moody’s also affirmed outstanding Aa1 and P-1 ratings on approximately $1.7 billion of outstanding university enterprise revenue bonds, commercial paper, and extendable commercial paper programs. The outlook is stable.

Ratings rationale: The assignment and affirmation of the Aa1 rating reflects CU’s role as the state of Colorado’s (Aa1 stable, issuer rating) flagship institution, with excellent strategic positioning, a significant research enterprise and important role as a provider of medical education for the state. Campus locations in Boulder, Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs – along Colorado’s Front Range – continue to bolster student draw and provide mitigation to potential short-term enrollment disruptions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, CU’s diverse and substantial scope of operations and sizeable liquidity provide mitigation to potential financial impacts of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, CU has produced strong, positive operating performance with sound revenue growth, which Moody’s expects to resume after fiscal 2021.

Tempering the long-term credit quality of the university is very limited state support for operations and capital, ongoing need for capital investment across its multiple campuses, and exposure to potentially volatile health care operations through its affiliation with the University of Colorado Hospital Authority. CU also has a high underfunded pension liability, which will worsen due to recent financial market performance.

The assignment of the VMIG 1 ratings on the proposed variable rate demand bonds are derived from (i) the credit quality of TD Bank, N.A. (the Bank) as provider of liquidity support for each Series in the form of a Standby Bond Purchase Agreements (SBPA), (ii) the long-term rating of the Bonds and (iii) Moody’s assessment of the likelihood of an early termination or suspension of the SBPAs without a mandatory tender. Events that would cause termination or suspension of the liquidity facilities without a mandatory purchase of the Bonds are directly related to the credit quality of the Board. Accordingly, the likelihood of any such event occurring is reflected in the long-term rating, Aa1, assigned to the bonds. Moody’s current short-term Counterparty Risk (CR) Assessment of the Bank is P-1(cr).

Affirmation of the P-1 ratings on commercial paper notes are based on the strength of the university’s sizeable available liquidity, strong internal liquidity and treasury management functions, as well as strong market access.

We regard the coronavirus outbreak as a social risk under our ESG framework, given the substantial implications for public health and safety. The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation has created dislocation across industries and geographies, triggering urgent challenges for many businesses and organizations to address. The prospects and path of economic recovery for the second half of the year and beyond depend on factors including when and at what pace lockdown measures will ease and to what extent fiscal and monetary policy measures are available to assist businesses and organizations. The combined credit effects of these developments are unprecedented.

Rating outlook: The stable outlook reflects expectations that CU will manage through coronavirus-related impacts through fiscal 2021 with budget and operational adjustments. It also reflects expectations that operating performance will improve in fiscal 2022.

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University of Colorado statement on U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrival (DACA) students

We at the University of Colorado are pleased that our DACA students will be able to continue their educational journeys with us. They are valued members of our community who add a unique perspective and enrich the diversity of our campuses. We are strong believers in the power and promise of a college education, so we are glad that our DACA students will be able to realize that promise and continue their contributions to our university, their communities, our state and nation.

Mark Kennedy, President

Philip DiStefano, Chancellor, University of Colorado Boulder

Don Elliman, Chancellor, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Dorothy Horrell, Chancellor, University of Colorado Denver

Venkat Reddy, Chancellor, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

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Legislation with CU impact emerges from historic session

A prolonged, unprecedented state legislative session came to a close on June 15. The Legislature was in recess March 16-May 26 due to COVID-19 and reconvened for three weeks to pass the state budget and other bills.

CU’s Government Relations team is incredibly grateful to the Joint Budget Committee members and legislators who were tasked with making difficult decisions in the wake of an over $3 billion budget shortfall due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Every department in Colorado endured cuts, including higher education. Vice Presidents Todd Saliman and Tanya Kelly-Bowry worked around the clock to lobby not only the higher education general fund allocation, but also to mitigate cuts to many of our campus programs like the College Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, Cyber Security and opioid addiction treatment.

Before the pandemic, the CU Government Relations team also engaged CU stakeholders in many activities at the Capitol, including faculty presentations to committees, hosting campus groups for tours and legislator briefings, arranging meetings with legislators and CU leadership, and hosting events such as the CU 2020 Policy Kickoff with the CU Advocates program.

Our team would like to give a special thank you to CU leadership, our campus liaisons, budget and legal teams and all of our incredible campus faculty and staff experts for providing critical feedback on legislation since we began this work in January.

Below is the 2020 legislative recap, provided by the State Relations Team in the Office of Government Relations, on the major legislative issues with impact to CU that passed this session. There were many other bills that were killed because of budget and time pressures and we anticipate seeing them again next session. Bill statuses noted are as of Monday; please visit this page for a full list of bills and links to bill text.

Legislation with CU Impact:

HB20-1002 College Credit for Work Experience (Reps. McLachlan, Baisley/ Sens. Zenzinger and Story)  The bill requires the Department of Higher Education to conduct a study concerning awarding academic credit for prior learning within all state institutions of higher education. An existing council charged with examining general education courses shall implement a plan for determining and awarding academic credit for postsecondary education based on work-related experience. Beginning in the 2022-23 academic year, unless a plan is implemented prior to then, institutions shall accept and transfer academic credit awarded for work-related experience as courses with guaranteed transfer designation or part of a statewide degree transfer agreement. Our lobbyists worked with Vice President Mike Lightner and Jeremy Hueth to narrow the scope of the bill to GT Pathways and articulation agreements, along with giving institutions the flexibility to assess prior learning and award credit accordingly, rather than a statewide mandate on how that process works. Status: Sent to the Governor

HB20-1407 College Admission Use of National Test Score (Reps. Kipp, Baisley/Sens. Story, Zenzinger) For high school students who graduate in 2021,  the bill temporarily allows institutions of higher education to forego a national assessment test score, like the ACT and SAT exams, as an eligibility criterion of admission standards. CU officially supported this bill, along with a coalition of institutions. Status: Sent to the Governor

SB20-123 Compensation and Representation of Student Athletes (Sens. Fields, Bridges/Reps. Coleman, Herod)  Effective Jan. 1, 2023, except as may be required by an athletic association, conference, or other group or organization with authority over intercollegiate athletics including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, an institution of higher education shall not uphold any rule, requirement, standard, or other limitation that prevents a student athlete of the institution from earning compensation from the use of the student athlete’s name, image, or likeness. A student athlete’s earning of compensation may not affect the student’s scholarship eligibility. An association shall neither prevent a student athlete from earning compensation nor prevent an institution from participating in intercollegiate athletics because a student athlete receives compensation. Colorado was the second state in the U.S. to pass a NIL bill. Status: Sent to the Governor 

SB20-205 Sick Leave for Employees (Sens. Fenberg, Bridges/Reps. Becker, Caraveo)  The bill creates the “Healthy Families and Workplaces Act” (act), which requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees under various circumstances. On and after the effective date of the act through Dec. 31, 2020, employers are required to provide each of their employees paid sick leave for employees to take for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the amounts and for the purposes specified in the federal “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” in the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” Additionally, beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the act requires all employers in Colorado to provide paid sick leave to their employees, accrued at one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours. Status: Sent to the Governor 

SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity (Sens. Garcia, Fields/Reps. Herod, Gonzales-Gutierrez) This bill requires local law enforcement and the Colorado State Patrol to use body-worn cameras and release recordings to the public, and to conduct data reporting about certain incidents and contacts with the public. The Division of Criminal Justice must post this reporting on its website and summarize it in an annual report. The POST Board must revoke peace officer certification for certain violations. State and local law enforcement are prohibited from certain enforcement actions in response to public demonstrations. The bill removes immunity for local law enforcement peace officers and requires local law enforcement agencies to indemnify officers unless the officer did not act in good faith. The bill limits acceptable use of force by all peace officers and creates a duty to report excessive use of force. The Attorney General may intervene in instance where a government authority engages in a pattern or practice that deprives persons of their constitutional rights. Finally, the bill declares that the issues addressed within are a matter of statewide concern. Maybe of the amendments that were added to the bill reflect negotiations with public safety stakeholders. Status: Sent to the Governor. 

Health care-related Legislation:

SB20-212 Reimbursement for Telehealth Services (Sens. Winter, Tate/Reps. Lontine, Soper)  The bill prohibits a health plan from imposing restrictions on the technologies used for telehealth, requiring a previously established patient-provider relationship, or imposing additional requirements as a condition for reimbursement for telehealth services. This bill is an important step toward making telehealth a mainstream method to deliver healthcare services. Status: Sent to the Governor

HB20-1216 Sunset Continue Nurse Practice Act (Rep. Mullica, Sen. Ginal) The bill continues the State Board of Nursing in the Department of Regulatory Agencies, which is scheduled to repeal on July 1, 2021. Our lobbyists, along with Jeremy Hueth and nursing faculty from the College of Nursing, helped amend the bill to ensure that board approval of educational programs was not repealed.  Status: Sent to the Governor

HB20-1411 Covid-19 Funds Allocation for Behavioral Health (Reps. Michaelson Jenet, Kraft-Tharp/Sen. Pettersen) The bill allocates CARES Act funding to behavioral health programs in the Departments of Human Services, Public Health and Environment, Higher Education, and Law. The bill allocates $600,000 to the Center for Research into Substance Use Disorder Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Strategies for education for health care professionals, grant writing assistance, and personal protective equipment (PPE) and telehealth supplies for the medication-assisted treatment expansion pilot program. Status: Sent to the Governor

Additional Budget-Related Legislation

HB20-1366 Higher Education Funding Allocation Model (Reps. Esgar, McCluskie/Sens. Zenzinger, Rankin) The bill creates a new higher education funding allocation model beginning in FY 2021-22. The bill modifies how state appropriations are allocated among institutions of higher education. All of the higher education governing boards came together to support this bill, which focuses on transparency and accountability metrics for institutions. Special thanks to Vice President Todd Saliman and Chad Marturano for their incredible leadership in writing the formula. Status: Sent to the Governor

HB20-1427 Cigarette Tobacco and Nicotine Products Tax (Reps. Caraveo, McCluskie/Sens. Fields, Moreno) Conditional on voter approval, this bill raises taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products and establishes a new tax on nicotine products. Revenue from the taxes is distributed to fund health care, tobacco education, preschool, and other programs. With voter approval, the bill increases state revenue and expenditures on an ongoing basis. Status: Sent to the Governor

SB20-219 Lease- Lease-Purchase Issuance for Capital Construction (Sens. Fields, Sonnenberg/Reps. Valdez, Rich) The bill directs the State Treasurer to issue a lease-purchase agreement of up to $65.5 million by June 30, 2021, to fund the continuation of higher education capital construction projects that were previously funded. Importantly, the bill helps fund the continuation of the Health Sciences building on the Anschutz Medical campus. Status: Sent to the Governor 

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Website details CU’s efforts to ramp up online presence

CU’s Online Accelerator Committee (OAC) is living up to its name, pushing forward to meet a late October deadline for recommendations to the president and chancellors on how best to build the structure and processes to help the university grow its capacity and enrollment in online education. The university community can learn more about the initiative at the All Four: CU Online website that launched today.

The work began last fall, when the university engaged EY-Parthenon to conduct an assessment of CU’s online efforts and make recommendations for how it can increase enrollment and be more competitive in the market. Phase One of the project was completed in the spring and EY-Parthenon made recommendations to President Mark Kennedy and campus chancellors in early April. It found that CU has a strong brand and some significant strengths in online that match market demand, but it is still lagging market leaders.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has reinforced our idea that we need to be strong in online education, which will also have the benefit of augmenting our on-campus programs,” Kennedy said. “While I’m happy that we started this work last fall, the reality is we are behind where we need to be.

“Getting a coordinated focus across CU for going forward in online education is one of our priorities this year.”

Phase Two recommendations included implementing economies of scale and creating the OAC with systemwide representation of faculty and staff to identify a new structure and processes for online. The goal is to launch the revamped online effort in fall 2021.

While CU’s online programs are created by faculty and owned by campuses, one of the EY-Parthenon recommendations was to work toward efficiencies of scale in online-specific areas of recruitment, marketing and student success. To that end, the Office of Digital Education (ODE), which previously served CU Online when it spanned the Denver and Anschutz campuses, is now a systemwide resource serving all campuses.

“We are encouraged that prospective students continue to show interest in obtaining fully online degrees from the University of Colorado,” said Sheana Bull, Ph.D., senior faculty fellow for online learning and OAC co-chair. “Our faculty are deeply dedicated to creating exceptional opportunities to serve fully online students. We are committed to partner with them to co-create a supportive environment to increase the reach of high-quality education across our state and region.”

A related but separate project will promote a dozen CU-wide online programs in fall 2020 and spring 2021. A one-time marketing campaign will provide the campuses with additional resources to bolster enrollments in these 12 existing programs, and was made possible through support from the president. This project is also helping to gauge market demand for these programs and assist ODE in scaling up to serve all campuses.

The All Four: CU Online website for the broader initiative details the membership, goals and activities of the OAC and its five working groups (Academic, Finance, Information Technology, Online Services and Marketing/Communication). It also has an FAQ section. The OAC is co-chaired by Bull and Scot Chadwick, interim associate vice president of online learning. Its charge is to recommend and endorse the infrastructure for the design, development and delivery of high-quality, sustainable online programs that align with CU’s mission.

“CU’s educational quality and degree reputation are guiding principles for the project and key differentiators for our university in the marketplace,” Kennedy said.

The website invites feedback from the university community on the initiative.

For internal purposes, the project will be known as All Four: CU Online in keeping with the systemwide nature of the effort, mirroring the university’s systemwide marketing effort of the past four years. For external marketing and enrollment purposes, what faces the public and current and potential students is CU Online. CU has an RFP posted to engage a firm to help with the program’s long-term branding and marketing.

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Regents approve $4.54 billion system budget

The CU Board of Regents last week unanimously voted to approve a $4.54 billion budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, am amount 5.3% less than the previous annual budget for the university system.

The budget as proposed by administration was presented by Todd Saliman, vice president of budget and finance and chief financial officer, during the board’s June 18 meeting, which was held remotely and livestreamed. Video of the meeting is posted here.

The budgets by campus and system administration, with percentage cuts compared to the 2019-20 fiscal year:

  • CU Boulder, $1.86 billion, down 2.1%
  • UCCS, $244.7 million, down 9.9%
  • CU Denver, $300.4 million, down 9%
  • CU Anschutz Medical Campus, $2.14 billion, down 6.8%
  • System administration, $197.2 million, down 2.1%

The budget reflects the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with projected revenue losses and additional costs incurred because of COVID-19. CARES Act funds to be spent in 2020-21 account for 3.4% of the university’s total expenditures. The state’s budget for 2020-21 includes a one-time cut of $140 million to CU.

Saliman noted that CU’s budget is based on current enrollment expectations, and that mid-year adjustments to the budget may be necessary depending on final fall enrollment figures. The board will be updated on enrollment at the September meeting.

The university will save over $1 million via furloughs and position controls – not hiring to replace vacation positions – affecting 7,708 university employees. The vast majority of those are employees taking one or two furlough days per month.

Additional actions affecting employees – such as periodic and extended furloughs, position eliminations, further hiring delays and layoffs – might be necessary depending on whether greater revenue shortfalls take place during the year. Plans vary across the campuses.

In other business at the June 18 Board of Regents meeting:

  • Regent Jack Kroll introduced a resolution listing eight immediate action steps for the university to take “to ensure a system that is fair, equitable, and accountable for all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.” The board first voted 5-4 to table the resolution, then voted 6-3 to refer the resolution to its University Affairs and Governance committees for further review and opportunities to hear input from members of the university community.
  • CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell updated the board on CU Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus’ pursuit of federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institute. The designation – which is awarded to institutions with a 25% or higher full-time equivalent (FTE) Hispanic student population, as well as other considerations – results in additional federal funding. Horrell said the institution is on track for submitting a final application to the Department of Education in January.
  • Regent John Carson asked that the Governance Committee consider a recommendation that during the hiring process for such posts as chancellors, provosts and deans, search committees consist of no more than 50% university employees. The committee will review the resolution before it comes to the full board in September.
  • The board passed a resolution honoring Dorothy Horrell as Chancellor Emerita of CU Denver. “Thank you to the Board of Regents for your belief in me and your support for CU Denver,” said Horrell, who retires at the end of this month after four and a half years at the helm. “I believe passionately in that place. I think CU Denver matters more than ever.” The board also granted the title of Vice President, University Counsel and Secretary of the Board of Regents Emeritus to Dan Wilkerson, whose interim role concludes at the end of this month. He was honored with a resolution of appreciation, as was Anna Gordon-Norby, outgoing chair of the Intercampus Student Forum (ICSF).
  • The board voted to approve five new degrees at CU Boulder. Read more in CU Boulder Today.
  • The board approved two new graduate certificate programs and two new undergraduate certificate programs at UCCS.
  • The board approved plans for a $9.98 million renovation of the Fitzsimons Building at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
  • The Board of Regents approved 83 tenure awards and appointments.
  • The board voted for leadership for the coming year. Glen Gallegos was re-elected chair by acclamation. Lesley Smith was elected vice chair, also by acclamation, to succeed Irene Griego, who will leave the board when her term expires in January.

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Understanding your privacy, personal data on LinkedIn Learning

Last September, CU upgraded to LinkedIn Learning and expanded access to all employees and students. This online learning platform allows users to take advantage of thousands of courses, videos and certification practice content to expand their professional skill set.

One perk of this platform is the ability to connect your personal LinkedIn profile with LinkedIn Learning. By doing so, a learner will receive personalized course recommendations based on their job title or major and self-identified skills. After completing a course, you can add a badge of completion to your profile and share it with others through LinkedIn.

Bridging the gap between your personal social media and your career can be intimidating. You deserve to know who can view your data, and how much information they can see, when using LinkedIn Learning and LinkedIn. There is a limited amount of data the CU administrators on LinkedIn Learning can see for each user.

What can CU see?

For both employees and students, the University of Colorado’s LinkedIn administrators can see the following information:

  • All learning activities, such as courses viewed or completed, on an individual basis.
  • Profile information including name, work title and profile photo (NOTE: This applies only if a profile is connected). 
  • Any courses from a personal account that have been transferred to a CU-affiliated LinkedIn Learning account.

What can CU not see?

If a LinkedIn profile is connected to CU’s LinkedIn Learning platform, activity from the private LinkedIn profile will not be shared. This includes:

  • Connections
  • Private messages
  • Any job search activity, including viewed job posts
  • Any learning courses viewed in the personal account

Learn more about connecting your profile to LinkedIn Learning, and your privacy settings on LinkedIn, here.

If you have any additional questions about your data and information, please email system.training@cu.edu.

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CU researchers develop key findings as COVID-19 clinical trials progress

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the good news is that Colorado hospitals have moved through the surge of cases they were experiencing from late April to early May. For example, at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, the census of COVID-19 patients is down nearly 70 percent from its peak.

However, there are still plenty of individuals with COVID-19 who are in need of effective and safe treatments. Moreover, public health experts anticipate a new surge of patients in late summer or early fall if high levels of social distancing are not maintained.

“The University of Colorado is playing a central role in finding treatments for COVID-19. Together with specialists in infectious disease, emergency medicine, hospital medicine and the critical care community, we are working in partnerships to test these treatments,” says Adit Ginde, MD, professor of emergency medicine in the CU School of Medicine who is also leading several COVID-19 clinical trials.

In just a few months, physicians have developed key findings through multiple clinical trials at CU Anschutz, testing previously FDA-approved drugs and new medications to battle COVID-19.

“Two months ago I would not have guessed we’d have encouraging results so quickly,” says Tom Campbell, MD, professor of infectious disease at the School of Medicine, who is leading many of the trials. “It makes it all the more exciting for those of us who are helping out with the effort.”

Campbell describes two strategies to treat COVID-19: target the virus with antiviral medications, and try to attenuate the inflammatory response. Clinical trials at CU Anschutz use both strategies, and sometimes use them together in the same study.

Antiviral strategies

“The remdesivir trials sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) demonstrate that using a medicine that targets the virus directly is effective. So that strategy of using an antiviral approach is validated,” Dr. Campbell says. He has been leading two trials of remdesivir at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

COVIDTrialsINS1

In fact, one trial was so effective in improving time to recovery for patients with severe disease that the NIAID decided to stop the trial and make remdesivir available to those who would benefit. The result is that doctors now have a means to treat COVID-19. It does not mean it is a cure or that better drugs won’t be developed. But at least it is one tool.

In addition to remdesivir validating the antiviral strategy, Dr. Campbell says the use of convalescent plasma falls in the same category. At UCHealth, David Beckham, MD, is leading a clinical trial to distribute COVID-19 convalescent plasma to regional hospitals to treat patients that are in the hospital with COVID-19. “Convalescent plasma, or plasma from patients that have recovered from COVID-19, may contain antibodies that can help fight COVID-19 in sick patients in the hospital,” says Dr. Beckham, associate professor of infectious disease in the School of Medicine.

Just last month, Dr. Beckham received a COVID-19 research pilot grant from the CCTSI. “The grant will help get the system started, develop the databases to study what happens to the patients after treatment and help provide initial support to develop antibody tests,” Dr. Beckham says.

The drug that has received by far the most press coverage—both positive and negative—is hydroxychloroquine. Dr. Ginde is leading several clinical trials that involve the drug. He explains that the drug’s primary effect is antiviral, but there are some lab data that suggest it also works to modulate the immune response.

“It is probably the reason why it would have potential to work in more advanced illness,” Dr. Ginde says. The drug is being tested in clinical trials across the spectrum of illness for prevention, outpatient and inpatient treatment.

Dr. Ginde is co-leading a blinded placebo-controlled study with Marc Moss, MD, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine in the School of Medicine, on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in hospitalized patients. Because the study is blinded, there are no early results, but nearly 400 patients nationally have been enrolled, including 33 in Colorado. Ginde is the national lead investigator for another blinded placebo-controlled study of hydroxychloroquine vs. another antiviral called lopinavir/ritonavir, which is an older antiretroviral agent used to treat HIV. The trial involves outpatients with COVID-19 and the goal is to prevent hospitalization.

“Antiviral agents may be most effective when given in the earliest stages of disease. You want to stop it [the virus] early before the patient’s immune response starts a dangerous spiral of damage.” 

Strategies to modulate the inflammatory response

Some people who get very ill with COVID-19 have a very exaggerated hyper-inflammatory response even after the virus is no longer a threat. The body continues to release cytokines, which may attack multiple organs including the lungs and liver. This suggests that the problems some patients experience in terms of respiratory failure may be driven by the body’s response against the virus. 

One of the drugs in this category that doctors have been testing is sarilumab, which had already been FDA approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Campbell has been leading a sarilumab clinical trial and early data from the trial show it did not provide benefit in people with milder version of the disease. “Going forward, we are only enrolling people [in the sarilumab trial] with critical illness and who require ICU admission and ventilation,” Dr. Campbell says.

A new study that employs the strategy of calming the body’s hyper-inflammatory response features another FDA-approved drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis: baricitinib. The Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial 2 (ACTT 2) is sponsored by the NIAID and will evaluate the combination of baricitinib and remdesivir compared to remdesivir alone in hospitalized patients. It has just launched at the Rocky Mountain Regional Veteran Affairs Medical Center and other sites across the United States. 

Looking forward

Down the road, the next wave of COVID-19 clinical trials will almost certainly involve monoclonal antibodies to attack the coronavirus spike protein. Dr. Beckham says he hopes his work now will inform the next developmental steps to creating monoclonal antibody therapies and even vaccine approaches to treat or prevent SARS-CoV2.

Dr. Ginde says, “We are using the experience in this wave of illness, trying to learn what we can about treatment and getting ready for future waves.”

Guest contributor: Wendy S. Meyer, Colorado Clinical Translational Sciences Institute

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CU Boulder researchers contributing to CU Anschutz podcasts starting June 30

Starting on June 30, five University of Colorado Boulder researchers will be featured in the University of Colorado Anschutz-led Mind the Brain podcast series. The combining of expertise from both campuses, led by the CU Anschutz Department of Psychiatry and CU Boulder’s Renée Crown Wellness Institute, is just the latest example of increasing collaboration between faculty and researchers at the two campuses.

Sona Dimidjian and C. Neill Epperson
Mind the Brain will feature CU Boulder experts thanks to collaboration between Sona Dimidjian of CU Boulder’s Renée Crown Wellness Institute and C. Neill Epperson of the Department of Psychiatry at CU Anschutz.

About the podcast series

Mind the Brain, a weekly series featuring CU Anschutz faculty experts on mental health topics in the time of COVID-19, will include CU Boulder experts during five podcasts this summer:

  • June 30: Sona Dimidjian, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Director of the Renée Crown Wellness Institute, will discuss depression- and wellness-related topics
  • July 7: Joanna Arch, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, will address anxiety and serious medical ilness
  • July 14: Kenneth P. Wright, Professor of Integrative Physiology, will cover sleep-related topics
  • July 21: Roselinde Kaiser, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience will talk about depression and brain development among youth
  • July 28: Christopher A. Lowry, Associate Professor of Integrative Physiology, will explore diet, microbiome and mental health-related topics

Each Tuesday, CU Anschutz distributes by email a new article and podcast focused on a unique topic written by an expert on mental health and COVID-19. Episodes typically run about 20 minutes each and are hosted by C. Neill Epperson, MD, the Robert Freedman Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Following the initial airing of each episode, the articles and podcasts are made available on the CU Anschutz Department of Psychiatry website.

Register for the podcast or learn more by subscribing to the Mind the Brain series.

Collaborative efforts dubbed the “AB Nexus”

Leadership at the Anschutz and Boulder campuses and the University of Colorado President’s Initiative earlier this year started an initiative to provide support for integrated services and projects across the campuses that focus on research development activities and administrative improvements. By expanding research collaborations between the university’s Anschutz and Boulder campuses, the “AB Nexus” aims to generate knowledge that improves human health and spurs innovation and economic development.

In addition to joining forces for the Mind the Brain series, early wins for the campuses already underway include a new seed grant program that will be announced this fall. Future efforts will focus on identifying and connecting potential collaborators, expanding funding opportunities on both campuses and developing other resources to make collaborations more seamless and powerful.

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Dinarello awarded 2020 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science

University of Colorado Distinguished Professor Charles Dinarello, MD, has today been named one of the winners of the 2020 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science “for the development of cytokine-targeting biological therapies for treatment of inflammatory diseases.”

Dr. Dinarello shares the prize with Dr. Marc Feldmann and with Dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto.

“Development of biologic drugs, or biologics, has revolutionized the treatment of diseases,” the Tang Prize Foundation said in its announcement of the award. “This year, the Tang Prize Foundation recognizes the development of biologics targeting three proteins in our immune system called cytokines.”

Interleukin (IL-1) was the first cytokine to be identified and shown to be a central mediator of inflammation. Dr. Dinarello is considered one of the founding fathers of cytokines and his pioneering work set the foundation for establishing IL-1 as a potent mediator of fever and inflammatory diseases, which led to the development of therapeutics for this important cytokine.

DinarelloINS

Charles Dinarello, MD

IL-1 has profound multi-organ, multi-tissue, and multi-cellular impact on cell signaling. Dinarello discovered both IL-1a and IL-1b in 1974. He purified IL-1b in 1977 and his group was the first to isolate the gene for IL-1b in 1984. Since 1984, three drugs have been approved to reduce inflammation mediated by IL-1b. Most recently, neutralizing antibodies to IL-1b reduced cancer incidence and cancer deaths is a world-wide trial in over 10,000 patients. Reducing IL-1b as well as IL-1a has reduced the burden of several auto-inflammatory and autoimmune syndromes.

Dr. Dinarello is distinguished professor of medicine and immunology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and professor of experimental medicine at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He received his medical degree from Yale University, clinical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and from 1971-77, he was at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. In 1998, Dinarello was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences and in 2010 he was made a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Dinarello has published over 1,000 original research articles, reviews, editorials, and book chapters on inflammatory cytokines, particularly on IL-1, the IL-1 family and related cytokines. He has trained over 50 investigators, many of whom are recognized experts in their fields. The Institute for Scientific Information listed Dinarello as the world’s fourth most-cited scientist during the 20 years 1983-2002 and from 1996 to 2011, he was listed as one of 400 of the world’s most influential biomedical researchers.

Dr. Dinarello has received numerous international awards for his contributions to the field of cytokines and medicine, including

  • the Squibb Award (USA),
  • Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine (Germany),
  • Gold Medal of the Heilmeyer Society for Internal Medicine (Germany),
  • Chirone Prize (Italian National Academy of Medicine),
  • Carol Nachman Prize (Germany),
  • Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashdid al Maktoum Award (United Arab Emirates),
  • Beering Prize (USA),
  • Albany Prize in Medical Research (USA),
  • Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Sweden),
  • Paul Ehrlich Prize (Germany),
  • Bonfils-Stanton Prize (USA),
  • the Novartis Prize in Clinical Immunology (Switzerland), and
  • the Bonazinga Award (USA) and Drexel Prize in Immunology (USA).

    Dr. Dinarello also has received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Eicosanoid Foundation for his pioneering studies on the role of lipids in cytokine-mediated inflammation. Dr. Dinarello donates the monies from his awards and prizes to The Interleukin Foundation, a charitable foundation he established in 2009, which supports research on cytokines, particularly to young investigators.

    About the Tang Prize

    Established by Taiwanese entrepreneur Dr. Samuel Yin, the biannual Tang Prize consists of four categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology and Rule of Law, with NT$ 40 million (approx. USD $1.3 million) in cash prize and a research grant of NT$ 10 million (approx. USD $0.33 million) allocated to each category. It aims to promote the interaction and cooperation between culture and technology so as to find a 21st century path to the sustainable development of the world. For more information, please visit the prize’s official website at https://www.tang-prize.org/en/first.php.

Guest contributor: CU School of Medicine