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University of Utah given $22.5 million to boost clinical research

Published: Friday, May 30 2008 12:03 a.m. MDT

The University of Utah has received a $22.5 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health, payable over five years.

The first installment of $4.5 million is already in the bank on an award designed to support infrastructure for enhanced clinical research with human subjects geared to improving health.

"It's not directed to a specific disease," said Dr. James P. Kushner, M.M. Wintrobe Distinguished Professor of Medicine and associate vice president for clinical research at the U. School of Medicine. "It's for establishing things the faculty need to do research on human subjects."

He said the targeted research basically divides into two broad categories: defining disease mechanisms and population studies to improve health-care delivery and outcomes.

The U. will use the money to establish a Center for Clinical and Translational Research, building on its existing clinical research center.

The announcement, made Thursday morning, awards $533 million over 5 years to 14 new clinical and translational research centers, including the U., raising the number to 36 out of about 60 that are ultimately envisioned. The goal is to foster cooperation and reduce how long it takes for laboratory discoveries to reach the bedside.

"The consortium serves as a bridge in this process that allows researchers to perfect and refine existing treatments through interdisciplinary teams that extend to the clinic and community," Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, NIH director, said in a written statement. "Through the consortium, we are better able to leverage expertise and resources across the CTSA institutions and ultimately maximize NIH's investment in basic research, which should remain a top priority."

A "sizeable chunk" of the U. grant will be directed at community engagement, getting people involved in volunteering as research subjects, in cooperation with Intermountain Healthcare and the Veterans Administration health system. Under a budget already approved by NIH, some of the funding will be passed through to those partners for collaborative research projects.

Kushner said examples of components of the U. center are specific beds sublet in University Hospital for research subjects, along with dedicated staff to care for them, support for training the next generation of investigators and more. Biomedical informatics — the computerization of research data — is emphasized, as is biostatistical support for things like helping determine how many subjects would be required in each arm of a clinical trial to make results meaningful. And they hope to improve accessibility of data, such as that in the Utah Population Database, for research.

The U. already has many of the components in place and will expand them, Kushner said. For instance, the U. has a 10-bed "hospital within the hospital" for research that will be expanded. "We had pretty much everything in place when we applied for the grant."


E-mail: lois@desnews.com

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