SIF160 Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative

This award is a hiring package intended to establish a new institute at the University.

Project Manager: Christopher Barrett

BoV Approved: September 2018

Project Dates:  10/01/2018 – 9/30/2023

Total Funding: $37,806,123

Executive Summary

The Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative includes translational and commercial product development interests, with special interest in public health, clinical medicine, pervasive decision analytics, hybrid human-machine intelligence and advanced data analytics, and builds on several areas of existing academic strength at the University of Virginia.

The Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative will develop critically important complex problem-driven interdisciplinary research programs to help lead the university into its second hundred years of excellence and relevance. It is committed to, and well positioned by, this approach and organization to enhance UVA’s position in all of the areas suggested in the 2018 strategic assessment of Virginia's research assets report by Techonomy Consultants:

  • Cyber and Cyber-Physical Security
  • Integrated Networking
  • Communications, and Data Analytics
  • System of Systems (SoSE)
  • Engineering Solutions
  • Life Sciences


Current Status: Active


The Biocomplexity Insititute exemplifies organizational preeminence through its research mission. Although midway through the startup period, the Institute is demonstrating excellence and performance. BI is devoted to use-inspired fundamental research and impactful service related to understanding and managing massively interacting biosocial and sociotechnical systems.  Our  world-class research scientists translate critical problems of practice into an integrated problem-crossing portfolio of research that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Our problem- and service-facing teams integrate domain and application knowledge and extend beyond the Instititue and University, commonly involving non-traditional commercial and government agency sponsor/partners as well as international university researcher partners. Moreover, these projects create unparalleled immersive, long-term experiential learning environments for research students. Finally, unconventional research environments often involve accommodating unconventional funding vehicles and sponsors of great value to the university research enterprise.

BI also contributes substantially to UVA’s research enterprise mission by recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty that are specifically attracted by the Institute mission, portfolio, organization, researchers and research opportunities. BI’s research programs provide access to an extensive range of interdisciplinary scientists. Notably, 7 BI faculty and professional research staff were honored with awards from respected scientific organizations, resulting in attracting talented students and trainees who help to further develop global research programs.  The Institute’s impact spreads far beyond Grounds through its Proceedings that currently includes over 269 publications, presentations, and technical reports. It hosts world-renowned speakers, providing a platform to amplify the critical research needs and progress in computationally driven systems.  The Institute’s research centric organization provides the University with exemplary program management and operational capabilities that value each of our 120 faculty, staff and research students whose collective mission is to develop and execute highly responsive research innovations in service to decision-makers who deal with critical problems. Some examples include: mathematical systems designed to alert leaders to future pandemics; new approaches to addressing challenges in the fundamentally democratic function of counting the population of the U.S.; network sciences and AI solutions to address engineered solutions to problems in the Life Sciences among other areas of importance.  Currently, BI has an active research portfolio of $53.1 million.  As unexpected constraints on program development due to the need to support COVID19 operations begin to relax, we hope and expect to add and develop a productive new research division and further expand the growth potential of our research portfolio.

During the 2021 program year, the Institute developed 48 software applications, systems, dashboards, and data systems, and notably submitted 5 disclosures and patent actions – moving discoveries into practice.  Further, the Institute supports global economic development as 42 heavily recruited students prepare to transition from an academic research environment into the workforce of the future.

The Institute coordinates with the VPR and the UVA research enterprise and works closely with the University Office of Advancement to identify new funding opportunities, and together have engaged with leading national and international philanthropies—both in generalized and competitive calls for proposals.  The Institute’s unique perspective and capacities provide immediate opportunity, for example, to extend the University’s other SIF investments and Advancement priorities in democracy, medical science, and data science.