July 14, 2009

UAMS Awarded Nearly $20 Million for Clinical and Translational Research

LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has been awarded nearly $20 million – its largest ever research grant – by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to join an exclusive group of medical institutions nationwide.

The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Center for Research Resources of the NIH is a highly sought-after grant among institutions that aim to translate basic science discoveries into speedier treatments and cures for patients.

The consortium of grantees began in 2006. In 2012, when the program is fully implemented, the consortium will link about 60 institutions with a combined budget of $500 million to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science.
 
“We are extremely honored with the NIH’s investment in the people and facilities that make UAMS such an innovative institution,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “This is the most significant research grant UAMS has ever received and not only solidifies the standing of UAMS among the country’s elite academic health centers, but also ensures that the important work being done here quickly moves to the bedside to have a tangible impact on Arkansas patients.”

The $19.9 million grant will boost the UAMS Center for Clinical and Translational Research, which received prioritized funding from Wilson in May 2008. The center will occupy 24,000 square feet in the old UAMS hospital building that became available when the $198.4 million, 540,000-square-foot new hospital opened in January.

“UAMS is well positioned to develop and implement innovative, integrated models for clinical and translational science that can substantially benefit patients, researchers and clinicians throughout our state and region,” said Lawrence Cornett, vice chancellor for research and executive associate dean of the UAMS College of Medicine. “The specific demographics and problems faced by Arkansans present unique research opportunities and resources, and our results will provide a richer picture of public health for the CTSA consortium.”

Curtis Lowery, M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAMS, was the lead investigator on the CTSA proposal and is the director of the UAMS Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

“We are looking forward to the challenge of streamlining our existing infrastructure, energizing our research programs and integrating UAMS research into clinical use,” Lowery said. “Having an institution earn this award is something all Arkansans can take pride in. Earning this award was a group effort and could not have happened without a strong, cohesive group of leaders at UAMS.”

Lowery said the award will bolster research collaborations with UAMS partners such as Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Information Sciences, Arkansas Department of Health, the National Center for Toxicological Research and other institutions within the University of Arkansas System. Several other state and private agencies will also be involved.

Debra Fiser, M.D., dean of the UAMS College of Medicine, said the CTSA calls for a renewed focus across campus.

“We have pledged to focus ongoing recruitment and education efforts on translational investigators who will strengthen the UAMS Center for Clinical and Translational Research,” Fiser said. “The success of this movement will rely on creating an atmosphere of efficient collaboration between all colleges and institutes across campus and our many partners around the state. We’re extremely proud to be a part of this network and look forward to the challenge.”

Lowery said a strong leadership structure is essential in setting and reaching goals. An Executive Board comprising representatives from all campus institutes and colleges and statewide collaborating partners oversees the UAMS Center for Clinical and Translational Science. An Executive Steering Committee advises and drafts policies to present to the Executive Board. In addition to Lowery and Cornett, the Executive Steering Committee includes:

• Cornelia Beck, Ph.D., RN, co-director of the UAMS Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence
• Jim Raczynski, Ph.D., dean of the UAMS College of Public Health
• Robert E. McGehee, Ph.D., dean of the UAMS Graduate School
• Warren Bickel, Ph.D., director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute’s Center for Addiction Research
• Alan VanBiervliet, Ph.D., professor, UAMS Department of Health Behavior and Health Education
• Peter Emanuel, M.D., director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute
• Aubrey Hough, M.D., associate dean for Translational Research and Special Programs
• Mark Mengel, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for Regional Programs, AHEC executive director
• Michael Owens, Ph.D., director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies
• Paul Greene, Ph.D., director of research development for the Arkansas Community Cancer Network
• Sudir Shah, M.D., chief of the Nephrology Section at UAMS and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System

“The severity and advanced state of health problems in Arkansas, combined with the central location of UAMS and its existing strengths, increase the potential value and health benefits of our Center for Clinical and Translational Research,” Lowery said. “With UAMS as the leader in translational methodologies in a predominately rural state, we will play a critical role in the CTSA consortium as it addresses the country’s diverse health problems. Joining this group is also a portal to open up further funding and projects to UAMS.”

As part of the consortium, UAMS is now able to funnel projects and funding to the other member institutions as well as participate in projects and receive funding from other member institutions.

The CTSA initiative grew out of the NIH commitment to re-engineer the clinical research enterprise, one of the key objectives of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

The ultimate goal of the CTSA consortium will be to work towards commercializing scientific discoveries and creating partnerships with private and public health care organizations, including pharmaceutical companies and business incubators, to turn basic scientific advances into immediate use. 

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.