NIH awards U-M $55 million grant
The National Institutes of Health has named the University to receive a $55 million Clinical and Translational Science Award, says Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, NIH director. The CTSAs are part of a national initiative to encourage and speed collaboration and interdisciplinary research for therapies that improve human health.
This five-year grant, the third-largest NIH award in the University’s history and the largest ever to the Medical School, builds on previous NIH investments to expand innovative programs and services in clinical research infrastructure and education.
The announcement places U-M with 23 other academic medical centers around the country that are members of an expanding national CTSA consortium. Its mission is to transform how clinical and translational research is conducted, ultimately enabling researchers to provide new treatments more efficiently and quickly to patients. When fully implemented in 2012, about 60 institutions will be linked together to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science.
“As the consortium grows, we are fulfilling our charge to transform clinical and translational research,” Zerhouni says. “Through collaboration and leadership, these sites are serving as discovery engines that can rapidly translate research into prevention strategies and clinical treatments for the people who need them. The CTSA consortium also represents our investment in the future as it prepares the next generation of clinical researchers to meet tomorrow’s health care challenges.”
U-M schools, colleges and institutes participating through the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR) include the schools of business, dentistry, medicine, nursing, social work and public health; the colleges of engineering, pharmacy and LSA; the Division of Kinesiology, the Institute of Social Research and the Life Sciences Institute. The U-M Health System is contributing to a partnership as well.
“The Medical School and the hospitals and health centers have played, and will continue to play, leadership roles in the success of this CTSA award, which could only be achieved through the broad support from schools, colleges and units across our institution,” says Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of UMHS. “We have an incredibly strong institutional commitment that includes a nearly one-to-one funding match from many of the University’s schools and colleges. The energy sweeping through our biology, clinical medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health, engineering and genomic units is palpable.”
MICHR, launched last November, is the administrative umbrella for the grant. Led by Dr. Dan Clauw, professor of internal medicine, the institute is creating partnerships among the relevant units of the University, the NIH, external industry partners and the community for both research and education.
“A CTSA is the superhighway of the NIH roadmap — it’s the ultimate resource an institution needs to really deliver cures and treatments to our patients. The University has been building infrastructure for nearly five years. As a result we are ready to use the CTSA to help people do the best research, as well as excite and attract people who weren’t previously thinking about a career in clinical or translational research,” Clauw says. “Think of the CTSA grant as a large infrastructure grant paired with a large educational initiative designed to bring clinical research to the fore.”
Clauw says the University is extremely supportive of interdisciplinary research and has tremendous strengths in the health sciences. “The NIH is matching our institution’s original commitment almost dollar-for-dollar. Adding federal funding will have the effect of stimulating us to really think outside the box on how to accomplish the goals of speeding up discoveries, cures and treatments.”
Programs already in place at MICHR to support the CTSA initiative include a Pilot and Collaborative Grant Program for Translational and Clinical Research. In August MICHR awarded $3.6 million in its first round, the largest-ever interdisciplinary grant program at U-M. In addition to funds from MICHR itself, 24 different departments, colleges or units at U-M provided funds.
Another successful MICHR program is Engage, a Web site developed for potential participants in research studies and referring physicians recruiting volunteers for clinical studies. Started in 2005, the site allows prospective volunteers register their interest, search for new studies at any time and update personal profiles.
“Reaching out to the community is such an important charge from the CTSA consortium. To develop Engage, we involved community members in deciding what information the Web site should have, and how best to present it,” says Dorene Markel, MICHR managing director. “This is one of a number of outreach programs that aim to build trust in the community so members feel comfortable partnering with U-M researchers.”
A variety of training programs already are in place, reaching medical, public health, engineering and allied health undergraduates, pre- and post-doctoral students, and young basic science and clinical investigators just beginning their careers.
The MICHR Community Advisory Board involves partners from throughout the area, including Ypsilanti, Flint and Detroit, in order to identify and execute major outreach efforts around the state so that research under the auspices of the CTSA will directly benefit the people of Michigan.
“Even with this infrastructure already in place, there is much to do. For example, moving to a model of team science — there’s no better place than U-M to do this. We have an existing culture of successful collaboration and we have Top 10 graduate schools in every field related to health. The potential is great,” Clauw says.
More information about MICHR is available at www.michr.umich.edu.