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UW Joins Regional Health Research Partnership

September 19, 2013

The University of Wyoming is partnering with 12 other universities across seven states in the Mountain West to put clinical research into practice to address regional health concerns including access to care, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

A five-year, $20.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week will create a research network called the Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network (CTR-IN). Member institutions will share resources and expertise to support the development of bench-to-bedside research through a series of individual pilot grants.

“This is fantastic. It builds capacity in an important area of research at a depth that would be difficult for any one member of the network to do alone,” says Joe Steiner, dean of UW’s College of Health Sciences. “It provides access to competitive funding for a number of our faculty and expertise in developing research projects that can compete nationally. I am looking forward to continuing our work together.”

In addition to UW, the partner universities are the University of Nevada-Las Vegas; University of Nevada-Reno; University of Alaska-Anchorage; University of Alaska-Fairbanks; University of Hawaii-Manoa; Boise State University; Idaho State University; University of Idaho; Montana State University; University of Montana; University of New Mexico; and New Mexico State University.

“This grant will be a game-changer for Nevada and the entire region,” says program director Dr. Robert D. Langer, who holds faculty appointments at UNLV’s School of Allied Health Sciences and the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

”We will now have the means to address the unique health needs of people in the Mountain West, which covers one-third of the U.S. and faces tremendous health care delivery challenges,” Langer says. “While we’ve been successful in building basic science research, until now we’ve had a tough time building traction for research that can help everyday people. This grant will help us change that.”

Partner institutions will share resources and expertise to centralize services for researchers. This will improve research capacity at the institutional level and increase the likelihood for future independent NIH-funded research studies. Services/resources include:

--Pilot grants of one to two years per award for clinical and translational research.

--A virtual clinical translational science center hosted at UNLV and tailored to the needs of the 13 partner institutions.

--Mini-sabbaticals and visiting scholar awards to promote greater collaboration.

--Biostatistical support, mentorship, educational opportunities, and editorial and administrative support.

--Annual meetings focused on themes drawn from the health issues of the region.

Though most CTR-IN universities have successful programs in basic science, they lack capacity in clinical or bench-to-bedside research -- what the NIH refers to as translational research -- and have limited resources to support faculty conducting this type of work. Only three partner institutions have medical schools.

Grant funding comes from the NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program. IDeA grants are intended to enhance the caliber of scientific faculty at research institutions in historically underfunded IDeA-eligible states, thereby attracting more promising faculty and students. The CTR-IN will further this goal among the 13 partnering universities.

Steiner says the project will complement work that is already being done through a five-year, $16.9 million grant awarded to UW in 2009 by NIH for the Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program. That program focuses on diseases that are among the leading causes of death and high health care costs in the United States, and that are significant health issues in Wyoming.

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