18 Oct $14 million grant to drive clinical research at UW
Madison, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison intends to train more clinical researchers, whose work is rising in prestige and importance in medical science, with the help of a $14 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Molly Carnes, a professor with appointments in the medical and engineering schools who will oversee the training program, sees the funding as a boon to clinical research in general. Clinical studies have more variables and irregularities than traditional lab studies and have been seen as less desirable, she said.
“Over the past 20 years, the science of performing clinical research itself has evolved,” Carnes said. “It is now widely accepted that if we are going to practice evidence-based medicine, we must have well-performed, scientifically sound, clinical research studies so that we have solid proof that the treatments, diagnostic tests, and preventive strategies that we do to our patients are truly beneficial.”
The university responded to a competitive request for proposals from the NIH in 2003, said Jeanette Roberts, dean of the School of Pharmacy, where the program’s administrative offices will be based. UW-Madison is one of seven sites given grants.
After the grant’s five-year term schools will again compete for funding. Roberts hopes UW-Madison’s track record by that point will give it an advantage.
Focusing on interdisciplinary research, the university’s training program will bring together 72 university faculty from multiple departments, mostly nursing, medicine, pharmacy and engineering. Roberts said most trainees would be either young practicing clinicians without research backgrounds or advanced students aimed at faculty positions.
Involving different disciplines is what many researchers see as the way forward, as technological advances break down old academic boundaries. Pharmacy students, for example, can benefit from engineering knowledge about drug delivery devices, Roberts said.
“You not only want your physician to be prescribing you medications that have been proven in clinical trials to be of benefit to you, you also want your physical therapist to be using treatments that have been similarly proven,” Carnes said.
The private sector also employs clinical research, notably in biotechnology and biomedical fields that may involve required FDA trials, leading to more demand for researchers.
“It really is a new way that the NIH has approached things,” Roberts said. “It’s a nationwide undertaking to train this new workforce.”
The training will cover 10 subject areas: aging, asthma, cancer, heart disease, child and teen health, epilepsy, health-care technology and communication, nutrition, tobacco and alcohol intervention, women’s health and underserved populations. The roadmap grant is meant to support up to 24 trainees by the third year.
“It is the largest grant ever given by the NIH to support training in clinical research,” Carnes said. “And NIH money not only talks; it shouts.”
Jason Stitt is WTN’s associate editor and can be reached at email@example.com