October 12, 2007

Nat’l Health Institute Gives Weill $49 Million

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Weill Cornell Medical College is becoming a pioneer in a new way of thought in medicine. The National Institute of Health under the Clinical and Translational Science Award has given a $49 million grant to WCMC, the largest federal grant the school has ever received. With the grant, WCMC has been given the task of setting up a CTS center in New York City, in partnership with other colleges and institutions. The ultimate goal is to expedite the transfer of medical research into strong benefits for the public.
Last month, the National Institute of Research Resources, a branch of the NIH, named WCMC as one of twenty-four recipients of the CTSA. The award was created in 2006 as part of the NIH’s initiative to transform and improve the way clinical research is performed and applied.
“This will enable a new step forward in clinical science,” said Dr. Anthony Heyward, director of the clinical division of the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources.
“We’ve always provided research support, and separately, we used to provide support for training,” he said. “By integrating the processes, medical advancement is expedited more efficiently.”
“The goal is to bring better treatments to patients faster,” he added.
So far, there have been two rounds of awards given to various medical institutions in the United States, with a goal of 60 institutions by 2012 for an approximate total of $500 million. The aim of the endeavor is to create a network of researchers in three specific environments of study: basic scientific research, clinical research and epidemiological research.
The recipients of the grants themselves have their own networks; WCMC is establishing its CTS center in a collaborative effort with numerous institutions, including Hunter College, City University of New York, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the Cornell Cooperative Extension program, as well as several other hospitals.
“The new Clinical and Translational Science Center will also be an integral component of Cornell’s commitment to interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration,” stated Cornell University President David Skorton, who is also a professor of medicine and pediatrics at WCMC, in the press release announcing the award.
“It will support the entire spectrum of needs for clinical research in a safe environment,” Heyward said. “There are two steps required to bring better treatments to patients. One, studies must be checked and evaluated in research hospitals. Two, there must then be dissemination into the community. Weill was a particularly strong candidate due to its better integration and its opportunity for outreach into the community.”
Dr. Julianne Imperato-McGinley, principle investigator for the new CTS center, said that the goal for the center was the transfer of “more research from the bench to the bed side and then to the community.”
Imperato-McGinley noted that prior to the establishment of the CTSA, research was performed independently in the medical community, with basic, clinical and public researchers working separate of one another. She added that this method yielded progress at a very slow rate, and that the CTSA alternative is vastly superior.
She described the merging of fields as a wonderful idea and said, “Interaction is beneficial to research in every way. You could even get ideas from the community about a problem and then fix it. It’s like a circle.”
With the advent of the new methodology of medical research, there are a great number of benefits to be had.
“We’re starting to introduce common standards, physicians and researchers are working together,” said Heyward. “It’s a bit like creating a team.”
Imperato-McGinley noted that because the WCMC grant established a center for research to be utilized by several institutions, future funding could be directed towards specific research and education, thus furthering the advancement of clinical science and better attaining their ultimate goal:
“This ends up helping patients,” she said.