An engine of education
Higher education leaders heard how Mizzou drives economic prosperity at D.C. summit
Only months after Mizzou’s own George Smith was awarded a Nobel Prize for Chemistry, the Swedish Embassy in Washington D.C. featured Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and other higher education leaders in a discussion about the vital role of universities as pillars of economic growth, progress and technological advancement in the communities they serve.
Cartwright emphasized how partnerships with industry create new avenues of discovery and forge deeper ties between the university and Missouri communities — ties evidenced by Mizzou’s $3.9 billion impact on the state.
The chancellor was joined at the recent event by Virginia Tech president Timothy Sands and leaders from a host of Swedish universities.
“At Mizzou, our partnerships with the health and pharmaceutical industries, as well as with academic centers such as the Danforth Life Sciences Center, create valuable meeting places between research and business,” Cartwright said. “Rather than trying to do everything ourselves, we make connections to communities throughout our state by working with businesses and organizations that bring jobs, technology and industry to the people of Missouri.”
Cartwright noted that scientists at Mizzou’s Research Reactor first identified the potential of a key ingredient in Lutathera, a prescription medication for certain types of pancreatic cancer that affect hundreds of thousands of people each year. The reactor is now the sole supplier of that ingredient — a radioisotope known as lutetium 177 — to Advanced Accelerator Applications, the maker of Lutathera. That company, in turn, was recently acquired by Novartis, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
In this way, work that begins on the Columbia campus contributes to the state of Missouri through a chain of partnerships, Cartwright said.
U.S. companies have a larger presence in Sweden than those of any other foreign country, and Sweden and the U.S. have a long history of fruitful economic partnerships, making the embassy a perfect setting for a discussion about the links between higher education and economic prosperity. The meeting of countries also demonstrated that despite some differences in how public universities are funded and run in Sweden and the U.S., the missions of community involvement and societal impact are common to both and reflect a strong unity of purpose.
In Sweden, for example, public universities “are mandated to use research results to have an impact on society,” said Torbjörn von Schantz, president of Lund University, which is one of Sweden’s oldest and most renowned institutions of higher learning.
Cartwright noted that Mizzou is no different.
“As a land-grant institution, our mission is much the same,” he said. “Through Extension programs that reach out to communities to provide agricultural and medical services to communities in need, as well as through world-class research that leads to real benefits like Lutathera, we really mean it when we say we are the University for Missouri.”