Penn State receives $27.3 million NIH grant

Hershey, Pa. -- Penn State, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine have won a $27.3 million, five-year award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designed to accelerate the translation of scientific discovery into methods for improving public health.

This competitive Clinical and Translational Science Award will support the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), a collaboration of many Penn State colleges and institutes, along with community and industry partners, devoted to using their research and outreach expertise to improve the health of Pennsylvanians.

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources, supports a national consortium of medical research institutions designed to transform how biomedical research is conducted. Its goals are to speed the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, to engage communities in clinical research efforts, and to train a new generation of clinical and translational researchers.

The NIH announced on June 14 that Penn State is among five organizations selected in this final round of initial awards of the CTSA program, which provides support to organizations with the demonstrated commitment and expertise necessary to deliver on the promise of improved health, and one of only three in Pennsylvania to receive a CTSA since the program’s inception in 2006.

“Selection as one of the CTSA awardees is both a strong vote of confidence in the outstanding research being done at Penn State and an investment in the potential life-saving treatments and therapies that can come from collaboration across campuses and fields of expertise. As part of our legacy of service to Pennsylvania and beyond, Penn State is ready to identify solutions for better health,” said Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Penn State is one of the nation’s premier research universities, with annual research expenditures of roughly $800 million. The University has cutting-edge capabilities in a vast array of basic and applied disciplines that are relevant to health and critical to discovery and development of innovative tools.

“Already, our Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is bringing together researchers from across the University’s colleges, campuses, programs and departments and fostering collaborative research,” said Harold L. Paz, CEO of Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Penn State’s senior vice dean for health affairs, and dean of the Penn State College of Medicine. “This CTSA funding award will add to this momentum and substantially increase our infrastructure for supporting translational research, expanding our ability to take scientific progress from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside.”

The Penn State CTSI, founded in 2008, comprises many Penn State entities, including:
-- Penn State Hershey Medical Center
-- Penn State College of Medicine
-- College of Health and Human Development
-- School of Nursing
-- Eberly College of Science
-- College of Engineering
-- College of Information Science and Technology
-- College of Agricultural Sciences
-- College of the Liberal Arts
-- Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences
-- Institute for CyberScience
-- The Social Science Research Institute

The Penn State CTSI will focus specifically on finding solutions to problems in the areas of children’s health, cancer and behavioral health. Using state Tobacco Settlement Funds and other public funding, the CTSI has provided seed money to 42 Penn State research projects that demonstrate real potential for progress in these and other areas of health.

“We have a well-established model of interdisciplinary institutes that support team science across major initiatives involving science—from gene to protein to population—to improve people’s health,” said Daniel Notterman, vice dean for research at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State’s associate vice dean for health sciences research. “Through our CTSI, and working with public and private community and industry partners, we have a real opportunity to act as an engine that drives research initiatives to better predict, prevent and treat disease in the people we serve.”

The CTSA grant supports new or expanded research infrastructure, such as the Bioinformatics Core Group that provides services and expertise as well as expanded computing capabilities for researchers who need to analyze large datasets; the LionShare coordinator services that provide assistance for investigators conducting clinical research studies; and an ethics consultation service that will advise faculty on issues surrounding the use of clinical data, the ethical conduct of research, and data privacy and security.

The grant also supports research faculty and staff salaries and educational programs to encourage students to enter fields related to clinical and translational science. Through the CTSI, Penn State will initiate new degree programs in translational research, where students pursuing graduate degrees in such varied disciplines as nursing, medicine, basic science, informatics or engineering, can receive training in translational research as well. Certificates, master’s degree programs and dual-title Ph.D.s are all part of the new curriculum.

The CTSI also will create opportunities for two-way communication with members of the community to learn what progress is being made and to share their insight into which health issues biomedical researchers should study.

“The ultimate question regarding any biomedical research is whether it addresses a real need of individuals or populations,” said Larry Sinoway, Penn State CTSI director and distinguished professor of medicine. “Collaboration among different fields and in partnership with the community provides the greatest opportunity for such progress.”

The CTSA also represents an economic impact to the central Pennsylvania region and the state as a whole. Such grants help create or maintain good-paying jobs, and promising ideas generated in the lab and proven in clinical settings lead to the creation of new biomedical companies and industries that benefit the overall economy.

NIH funding of $1.4 billion to Pennsylvania in 2010 supported some 28,000 jobs across the state. Penn State attracts more than $100 million in NIH funding each year across its colleges and campuses.

The CTSA grant funding started on June 1 and runs through February 2016.

To learn more about the Penn State CTSI, visit http://www.ctsi.psu.edu and to learn more about the NIH’s CTSA program, visit http://www.ctsaweb.org online.

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Last Updated June 20, 2011