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Clinical research gets massive boost

BY: BILL SNYDER

9/21/2007 - Vanderbilt University has received a $40 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) — its largest single government research grant — to expedite the translation of laboratory discoveries to patients in the community.

The grant from the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will help create a new Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR). The institute will provide next-generation support to faculty working to translate fundamental scientific discoveries into clinical practice, with innovative training programs, and state-of-the-art informatics and biostatistical methods.

Important to the overall success of the program is a focused partnership with Meharry Medical College.

“We are thrilled with the NIH's investment in Vanderbilt,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. “The vision and commitment of a generation of clinicians and investigators, with a decade-long investment in transinstitutional research programs, have created a fertile environment for moving new therapies and diagnostic tests to the bedside.

“This major award will boost our efforts to assure Vanderbilt's research has tangible impact, yielding improved care for patients,” Balser said.

VICTR will also house the Medical Center's Clinical Research Center (CRC), a leading site for patient-oriented research and training in the United States for more than 50 years. Funds will also be used to establish a Community Engagement and Research program, expanding Vanderbilt's ties to the community.

“The CTSA will help bring basic and clinical researchers together, and provide the pilot grants, resources and biostatistical and informatics support that are essential for taking a good idea from the laboratory to the clinic and into the community,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., professor of Medicine and assistant vice chancellor for Research, who will serve as principal investigator of the CTSA and VICTR director.

“It is also an opportunity for Vanderbilt and Meharry to recognize and enhance each other's strengths,” added Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D., Meharry's senior vice president for health affairs and dean of Meharry's School of Medicine.

Montgomery Rice, founder of the Meharry Center for Women's Health Research and former chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is one of seven co-program directors of the CTSA.

The other Vanderbilt co-program directors, and their responsibilities, are:

• Leonard Bickman, Ph.D., professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Public Policy, and associate dean for Research at the Peabody College of Education and Human Development — program evaluation;

• Nancy Brown, M.D., professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, and associate dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development — education and training;

• Robert Dittus, M.D., professor of Medicine, and director of the Institute for Medicine & Public Health — health services and public health research, and community engagement;

• Frank Harrell, Ph.D., chair of Biostatistics — design, biostatistics and ethics;

• Dan Masys, M.D., professor and chair of Biomedical Informatics — biomedical informatics; and

• David Robertson, M.D., professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, and director of the CRC — participant and clinical interactions resource.

When fully implemented in 2012, the nationwide CTSA initiative is expected to provide $500 million annually to a network of 60 academic health centers. The initiative grew out of the NIH commitment to re-engineer the clinical research enterprise, a key objective of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, with the goal of measurably improving population health.

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