For some time, area researchers have been discussing a more tangible and far less costly means of achieving the goal of supporting and advancing medical - or, more broadly, life sciences - research and education in southern New Jersey.
That would be to establish an "eds-and-meds" consortium consisting of the four research institutions that are in close proximity: Rutgers-Camden, Cooper Medical School, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, and the Cooper Cancer Institute and University Hospital.
The consortium, which we propose to be called the Integrative Biology and Genomic Medicine Institute, would leverage the existing strengths of the four institutions and transform southern New Jersey into a hot spot for life-science and biomedical research in the region and the state.
Researchers at the Rutgers-Camden Center for Computational and Integrative Biology and Cooper Medical School would provide the basic and clinical research capability to the IBGMI in collaboration with the Coriell Institute, which is a major repository of human cells and a leader in the emerging field of personalized medicine.
The consortium would also serve as a translational research center that will bring effective strategies and treatments directly to clinical practice at the Cooper Cancer Institute and University Hospital. It would enable collaborative and interdisciplinary research that is beyond the range of any single institution - including a merged Rutgers-Camden/Rowan - and dramatically increase federal research funding levels.
From an educational perspective, the faculty and researchers at the four institutions would bring together their significant expertise in crosscutting areas to deliver first-rate graduate education in the life sciences to complement a first-rate medical program at Cooper Medical School.
Further down the road, the consortium would be able to establish new research and educational programs that capitalize on its increasing strengths, attracting top faculty, researchers, students, and new funding.
The consortium model has been implemented with great success elsewhere, including the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago); the Broad Institute (MIT, Harvard, and affiliated teaching hospitals); and the Research Triangle Park (Duke University, North Carolina State, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
If it is well planned and carefully executed, a consortium such as the IBGMI can be highly efficient and cost-effective, and would also promote entrepreneurship and new business generation, creating jobs for New Jersey residents and attracting talent to the state.
Lastly, the consortium would retain the much-valued identities, institutional cultures, and histories of the participating institutions.
Absorbing Rutgers-Camden into Rowan and bestowing the resulting entity "public research university" status would ring hollow in the research community. Becoming a research university is not achieved by self-proclamation; rather, it is conferred on the basis of measurable benchmarks and peer recognition.
Michael A. Palis (email@example.com) is a professor of computer science; Joseph Martin is a professor of biology; and Benedetto Piccoli is Joseph and Loretta Lopez Chair of Mathematics at Rutgers-Camden.