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UTHSC receives grant of $26 million
May 28, 2008

By Cindy Tumiel

The University of Texas Health Science Center has landed a $26 million federal grant that will support an effort to get research innovations from the lab to the medical clinic more quickly. Part of the five-year project will support efforts by a dozen regional health care providers to take clinical trials into underserved areas of South Texas.

The award came Thursday from the National Institutes of Health, which has begun a nationwide Clinical and Translational Science Award program to link research and health care institutions and reduce the time it takes for new medical discoveries to get tested, approved and available for patient care.

San Antonio's health science center is one of 14 academic institutions in 11 states to get grants during this round of funding from the NIH, which is distributing $533 million over the next five years. The NIH has established 24 other translational research centers in the past two years.

Much of the grant will pay for research infrastructure, such as community-based nurses, health educators and other staff that will work in field offices, linking patients with researchers who are testing new therapies.

It also will provide money to assist with training for young investigators and staff to help researchers comply with regulatory issues. Another effort will help San Antonio investigators get better database technology for biostatistical analyses.

“It takes a long time to move a new, exciting discovery from the laboratory to clinical application at the bedside,” Dr. Robert A. Clark, the principal researcher of the program, said in a news release.

This award will accelerate that pathway by providing support for clinical and translational research, as well as by removing some of the current barriers faced by our investigators.”

Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, president of the health science center, said the award “demonstrates our capacity to coordinate our resources and partners to effectively and successfully compete for this major NIH funding.”

The health science center plans to partner with a dozen other regional institutions, including Christus Santa Rosa Health Care, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, South Texas Veterans Healthcare System, University of Texas at San Antonio and University Health System.

It also will involve sister campus Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, where a new-patient clinic will give San Antonio investigators the venue to take clinical trials into an underserved region, Clark said. He said the new-patient clinic should open within six months in a new building on the Harlingen campus.

Another effort to be supported is called “practice-based research,” through which physicians in private practice can collaborate with academic researchers on tests of new medications and devices.

“This is a very innovative and novel approach to engage private physicians in clinical research,” Clark said. Some work already is being done with San Antonio pediatricians, and the grant will provide funding to expand that program beyond San Antonio.

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