Centers of Economic Excellence

June 2010 Program Update

The CoEE Review Board recently approved the creation of three new Centers:

CoEE in Sustainable Development (Clemson)

This CoEE will focus on creating new technologies that help to foster sustainable development, allowing South Carolina to better protect its natural resources and encourage smart growth.

The CoEE will combine engineering technology and “cyberinfrastructure,” such as hardware platforms and software systems, that allow environmental scientists and technicians to monitor, manage, and safeguard both natural and manmade environments through informed decision-making.

A central component of this CoEE will be Clemson’s Intelligent River™ project. The project includes a large network of sensors and probes all along the Savannah River that will gather and transmit huge amounts of data wirelessly about the condition of the river to Clemson researchers. The data will allow scientists and environmental managers to monitor remotely environmental characteristics such as water quality, storm-water runoff, and tree growth. This information can help officials better manage rivers and protect watersheds from damage that results from development and excess demand.

CoEE in Data Analysis, Simulation, Imaging, and Visualization (USC)

This CoEE will seek better ways to analyze, model, and process large amounts of data to make it understandable and useable for research and commercialization purposes.

While modern technology has made possible the collection of enormous quantities of data, this data is not useful unless it can be processed and interpreted, making it understandable and accessible to decision makers.

The CoEE will design innovative algorithms that can improve the flow and interpretation of data collected by a variety of advanced equipment, such as electron microscopes, earth remote sensing satellites, and supercomputer hydrodynamic simulations.

These algorithmic designs could be licensed for use for both fundamental and applied research within the academic, government, and private sectors. Start-up companies focused on processing and analyzing data within a particular field, such as DNA sequencing analysis, could also be created.

This Center already has secured all of the non-state funds to match the South Carolina Education Lottery funds allocated through the CoEE Program.

CoEE for Inflammation and Fibrosis Research (MUSC)

This CoEE will focus on developing new therapies for inflammatory and fibrosing conditions, which are a major cause of chronic illness in South Carolina and around the country. Fibrosing conditions occur when organs or tissues develop excessive fibrous tissue, which can interfere with the normal function of the organ. Examples of diseases in which inflammation or fibrosis play a prominent role include lupus, cystic fibrosis and scleroderma.

The commercialization of treatments developed by the CoEE could lead to start-up companies and new jobs in South Carolina. The CoEE’s research also has tremendous potential to improve the quality of life for people afflicted with debilitating chronic diseases.

MUSC has a world-class research group in this field. Dr. Richard Silver is an internationally renowned expert in the study and treatment of scleroderma, while Dr. Gary Gilkerson is widely known for his work with systemic lupus erythematosis.

New CoEE Endowed Chair is rising star in cancer research

Dr. LiDr. Zihai Li has joined MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center as the CoEE Endowed Chair in Cancer Stem Cell Biology.

One of the most innovative and promising fields of cancer research during the last decade has been cancer immunology—finding ways to help the body’s immune system recognize and fight cancer cells and control tumor growth. Types of immunotherapy, such as cancer vaccines and antibody treatment, have the potential to be more effective, more targeted, and less toxic than traditional cancer treatments.

Li’s work captured international attention when his study was published in the October 2009 issue of Stem Cells. The study revealed the potential for human stem cells to be used in the creation of a vaccine to protect against colon cancer and potentially other types of cancer.

Li will lead the CoEE in Cancer Stem Cell Biology. MUSC and Clemson University are partners in the CoEE along with Health Sciences South Carolina.

Li’s work could lead to cell-based therapies and new drugs to help the immune system fight cancer; the development of such treatments in South Carolina could result in job and economic growth. Li already holds a U.S. patent and four investigational new drug applications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He also has received several grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund his work.

Expert in geriatrics and aging appointed as first SeniorSMART® CoEE Endowed Chair

Dr. LevkoffThe U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by 2050, 21 percent of the total population will be aged 65 and over. This compares with just 12 percent in 2000. This increase will present challenges to the physical and financial infrastructure of South Carolina and the nation.

To address these challenges by helping older adults remain healthy and independent, USC has recruited one of the leading experts on geriatrics and aging. Dr. Sue Levkoff, who arrives from Harvard University, has been named the CoEE Endowed Chair in Community and Social Support—SmartHOME® at the SeniorSMART® CoEE.

Researchers at SeniorSMART® are conducting groundbreaking research that is leading to products that help seniors maintain their brain health (SMARTBrain™), driving independence (SMARTWheels®), and independence in the home (SMARTHome®). Levkoff will lead the SmartHOME® component of SeniorSMART®.

Levkoff’s work will focus on developing technologies that support older adults’ ability to remain at home in the community. For example, the CoEE is working to develop a monitoring system for use in individual homes or care facilities that would detect falls and alert caregivers in order to decrease response times.

Levkoff is also bringing a health care technology company to the state. Her firm, Environment and Health, will open a new location in Columbia. The company is developing several health information technology products, including online communities to help people caring for loved ones with dementia. Dr. Levkoff believes that these products have enormous potential to be marketed both nationally and internationally.

$10 million CoEE in Health Facilities Design and Testing is fully funded

Health Sciences South Carolina has invested $5 million to complete the funding for the CoEE in Health Facilities Design and Testing. The $5 million matches $5 million in South Carolina Education Lottery Funds allocated to the Center through the CoEE Program.

The $10 million Health Facilities Design and Testing CoEE will conduct research, develop architectural prototypes, and expand and disseminate knowledge on how health facility design affects health and health care delivery in order to improve the architectural settings for patients and staff. The CoEE focuses on the relationship between physical health care environments in four areas: health outcomes and patient safety; patient, family, and staff satisfaction; operational efficiency and effectiveness; and ability to accommodate change.

The CoEE will support two endowed chairs, one at Clemson in health care architecture and one in human factors and clinical practice at MUSC.

Who we are

The S.C. Centers of Economic Excellence Program was established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2002 and is funded through South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state's three public research institutions, Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and the University of South Carolina, to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence in research areas that will advance South Carolina's economy. Each Center of Economic Excellence is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state funds. The program also supports CoEE Endowed Chairs, world-renowned scientists who lead the Centers of Economic Excellence. By investing in talent and technology, the CoEE Program is designed to fuel the state's knowledge-based economy, resulting in high-paying jobs and an improved standard of living in South Carolina.

For more information on the CoEE Program, visit