Niagara University will receive more than $2 million in federal funding—$1.4 million to support the work of the university’s Academic Innovation Hub in the City of Niagara Falls, a facility that will leverage the university’s resources to integrate academic programs and curriculum with civic engagement, and $750,000 to support the establishment of a university science research laboratory and commercialization space in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in Buffalo, N.Y. The funding was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins.

“This funding strengthens our Vincentian mission of serving those in the margins of society while preparing our students to become leaders and change agents within their communities,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “It also advances our legacy of preparing students for careers in health professions by establishing a physical presence on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus that will elevate our academic reputation and further the impact of faculty research and technology transfer applications. We thank Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins for their continued support of Niagara University.”

Senator Gillibrand joined Niagara University and local officials on Feb. 10, 2023, at The First Congregational Church to announce the awarding of the $1.4 million in federal funding that will be used to transform the building into an Academic Innovation Hub.

“By providing direct neighborhood outreach, civic and academic programming, and cultural events, this innovation hub will help revitalize the downtown corridor and bolster the next generation of leaders in Western New York,” Senator Gillibrand said. “It will also allow Niagara University to leverage partnerships in this community and will help address the needs of Niagara Falls residents, offering opportunities for workforce, social, and economic development.”

The Academic Innovation Hub will serve as a learning opportunity for students, facilitating interdependent and interdisciplinary teaching, research, and co-curricular engagement; internships with community organizations; and project-based service with an impact on residents, while restoring a historical piece of Niagara Falls’ Bridge District.

The hub will also serve as a resource center, providing outreach to help residents with early childhood development, economic development, and community collaborations, with a focus on their health and wellness. As one of many anchors of Niagara Falls’ North End, it will work to deliver vitality, growth, and needed support for the organizations and businesses already operating there.

The project was established with an initial investment of $2.5 million and received a $1.1 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, administered by Empire State Development. Niagara University was also awarded a two-year, $450,000 grant from The John R. Oishei Foundation for programming and intern scholarships at the hub.

In addition, a $750,000 federal investment will facilitate the opportunity for Niagara University students to conduct research and experimentation in the medical corridor in Buffalo; aid in the training of a research-based workforce; and further the research and commercialization of a drug delivery technology called Cholestosome™, which has been developed at Niagara University.

Students in Niagara’s science and healthcare programs will be able to augment their work in the university’s on-campus Golisano Science Center with enhanced opportunities for direct research experience and scientific collaboration with longstanding partners, including Jacobs Research Institute, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Jacobs Medical School, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This critical experience will increase their competitiveness for admission to medical schools, pharmacy schools, dental schools and accelerated programs in nursing, as well as their marketability for employment immediately after graduation.

Cholestosome™ is a neutral, lipid-based particle that can deliver multiple molecule types, including small molecules, DNA, RNA, nucleic acids, peptides, proteins, and antibodies, past the blood-brain barrier. The technology has a wide range of applications, including viral inhibition and development of a therapeutic for lead poisoning.

The initiative will also link the Buffalo and Niagara Falls regions, providing a model for the integration of regional institutions in working on STEM problems.

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