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Final Four Schools Score Research Wins Off the Basketball Court


March Madness is driven by college teams scoring on the basketball court, but the competing Final Four universities also have Cinderella stories, key plays, and victories beyond the tournament. Every year, scientists from Michigan State University, Auburn University, Texas Tech University and the University of Virginia produce research and innovations that solve some of the world’s greatest problems.

There is more than $1.5 billion of research and development expenditures at work between the Final Four schools each year, which 141,141 students and 1.27 million living alumni call home.

Research from these institutions spans cancer-curing treatments and new flu vaccines to wind-turbine innovations and bomb-detection technologies, which in turn drives $18.4 billion in total economic impact in Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, and Texas.


  • A Michigan State University professor of chemistry developed cisplatin therapy, one of the world’s most widely used and effective anti-cancer treatments. Cisplatin continues to fuel new discoveries 40 years after its development. Royalties earned from cisplatin sales and its derivatives support investments in research and economic development initiatives through the commercialization of technologies invented by MSU faculty, staff and students.
  • University of Virginia’s School of Medicine discovered a direct connection between the brain and immune system through vessels no one knew existed. The true significance of the finding lies in its ramifications for the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis. “I really did not believe there were structures in the body that we were not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and director of the university’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia.
  • Researchers from Auburn University developed a potential cure for GM1 gangliosidosis, a rare genetic disease that affects humans and cats. The treatment has improved and extended the lives of cats with GM1, and likely is headed to a human clinical trial this year with the backing of a major pharmaceutical company.
  • Current flu vaccines only safeguard patients against the three or four flu strains that the World Health Organization expects to be the most prevalent each year. Texas Tech University researchers in the College of Engineering and The Institute of Environmental and Human Health received an NIH grant to develop a universal flu vaccine that targets the most unchanging parts of the virus.


  • Michigan State University is home to the nation’s top graduate program in nuclear physics, and with U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science support is building the $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams to explore the nature of the universe and turn that knowledge into new applications for society.
  • A team led by University of Virginia’s Eric Loth, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is using a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to build wind turbine prototypes that would dwarf the largest and most-advanced wind turbines currently in existence or in testing. The largest prototype would produce 50 megawatts of peak power using rotor blades the length of two football fields.
  • Auburn University scientists developed and patented Vapor Wake technology and training for law enforcement detector dogs. After they are trained using Vapor Wake, dogs can detect body-worn explosives and follow the trail of vapor and chemical particulates in the person’s wake until they track the target.
  • Texas Tech University is a national leader in research and education on the impact of wind on structures and human life. To more accurately categorize tornado damage, Texas Tech researchers revised and improved the way meteorologists and scientists track tornado patterns. This enhanced system, known as the Enhanced Fujita Scale, is now the standard for rating tornado intensity.

Learn more about the Final Four of research universities this weekend at #Final4Research

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