In March 2019, Keith Neeves joined the Department of Bioengineering as professor and director of new initiatives, bringing with him a reputable lab, an extensive research portfolio and unprecedented enthusiasm. Neeves received his PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Cornell University and his BS in chemical engineering from CU Boulder. Prior to CU Denver he was faculty at Colorado School of Mines.
“Professor Neeves has established himself as a fantastic teacher and a global leader in research,” says Dean Martin Dunn. “The creativity and importance of his ideas is reflected in tremendous success in attracting significant funding from both the NIH and NSF and in his receipt of myriad national awards, including an NSF CAREER Award.”
Neeves’ research focuses on the mechanisms, diagnosis, and treatment of blood clotting disorders, including genetic bleeding disorders, thrombosis and stroke. Current research projects use computational and experimental models to identify how blood composition and sex hormones regulate the clotting process. In addition to his NSF CAREER award, he has received the Karl Link Early Career Award in Thrombosis from the American Heart Association and Early Career Investigator Awards from the Boettcher Foundation and the Bayer Hemophilia Awards Program.
When Neeves decided to join faculty at CU Denver, both in bioengineering and in pediatrics at the CU School of Medicine, he was inspired by the breadth of opportunities: to translate technologies to clinical use, to train students at the interface of engineering and medicine and to grow what he sees at Colorado’s preeminent bioengineering program. Thus far, he is embracing these opportunities to the fullest.
His lab is now located in the Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Research Laboratories on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. This move has enabled his team to work more closely with clinicians, resulting in a better understanding of the challenges in treating pediatric blood disorders and cancers.
“The cross-pollination between engineers, biologists and physicians has been a fruitful one for us, and our new location will only speed up the process,” he says.
Neeves also is playing a key role in the development of a new collegewide biomedical technology program set to launch in fall 2020. The program will be located at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in the new Bioscience 3 building, and is designed to train students across all engineering disciplines for current and future employment needs in the bioscience sector.
“Technologies likes cell-based therapies and gene editing will require a massive new workforce as these treatments become more widely adopted,” says Neeves. “We have to create a curriculum and program that is responsive to this growth area in the economy.”
The planned biotech program, paired with the college’s new 20,000 square feet of dedicated space on the medical campus, will allow Neeves, as well as other faculty, to significantly expand their research through additional hands-on opportunities for student researchers and new cutting-edge facilities.
“In my field there is great enthusiasm around gene therapy, that is inserting new genes or editing genes in people with genetic disorders,” he explains. “We are currently seeing great success in gene therapy clinical trials in hemophilia. However, we have not yet built the manufacturing capacity or workforce to make these therapies more accessible and affordable.”
This program also will build upon the entrepreneurial nature of the bioengineering department and the College of Engineering, Design and Computing, providing incubator space and resources to faculty, students and collaborators.
“Despite our young program, I think this is the preeminent bioengineering program in the Rocky Mountain Region,” says Neeves. “There are several engineering faculty outside bioengineering with expertise in biomedical engineering and health technology. So, strengthening the ties between the two campuses is a priority. As we continue to grow and hire new faculty, I think we will push into new areas that are aligned with existing strengths on the medical campus.”
This vision aligns with the forward trajectory of the college, preparing students to become engineers of the future.
“In my brief time at CU Denver, I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I am with our students,” says Neeves. “They are so creative and excited about engineering and making a difference in their world…it’s really inspiring and keeps me motivated to rise to the challenge.”
At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.