UK finally wins $20 million grant to translate medical research into action at the bedside and in the field; now ‘a member of the club’

The University of Kentucky announced Tuesday that the National Institutes of Health had awarded it $20 million over five years to help move research discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside. The grant, one of the largest research awards in the university’s history, will support the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

The grant, which UK had sought for five years, will support research to apply or trnslate discoveries into practical applications. “Translational research, often referred to as ‘bench to bedside,’ means turning laboratory findings into preventions, treatments and cures for patients through collaborations across academic units with interdisciplinary research teams,” said UK President Lee T. Todd Jr.

UK Executive Vice President for Health Care Michael Karpf told the Lexington Herald-Leader that, in addition to provide funding, the grant acknowledges UK’s excellence in translational research. “This grant is recognition by the NIH that we are one of the places,” Karpf said. (Read more)

The grant could mean better care for patients, not only in the UK hospital. Dr. Philip Kern, left, director of the center, told Mike Wynn of The Courier-Journal that it will affect community engagement, information management and direct patient care. “One focus of the community-based research involves improving the delivery of treatment for patients who don’t receive the health care they need, Wynn reports, quoting Kern: “That is probably the one form of research that will impact Kentuckians most quickly.”

Wynn notes that 60 universities have received such grants, and writes, “The university would have lost any prospect of ranking among the top 20 research institutions without Tuesday’s grant and recognition, said UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy.” (Read more)

Until now, the center has had to compete with other university units for funding. Now it will have a stready stream of money, and that goes beyond the grant, because some grant opportunities are open only universities with such continuing grants, and that usually gives each of them anotrher $2 million a year, Kern said. “This gives us much greater stability,” he said. “There will be opoportunities that will come down the pike because we are now a member of the club.”

The grant will help research both at the UK hospital and in the field. Patients involved in research must have beds dedicated to that purpose, to make sure the hospital has room for regular patients, and that requires not only dedicated space, but funding, Kern said.

He said one example of the type of field research that the grant can support is a project being run by Dr. Nancy Schoenberg, right, in Letcher County, using faith-based organizations to find the best ways to help individuals and community groups fight obesity.

The grant will also help UK partner with other schools, especially those in a new Appalachian translational science network. Kern said Schoenberg and a colleague at Ohio State, which is in the network, have already received a pilot grant for a community-based project to leverage social networks to increase colorectal cancer screening in Appalachia. For a description of the project, click here.

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