Hopkins to receive NIH funds for center

$40 million to aid turning research into treatment

September 19, 2007|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,Sun reporter

The Johns Hopkins University will receive about $40 million in new federal funds over the next five years to help translate promising research into medical treatments, school officials announced yesterday.

The funds, from the National Institutes of Health, will be used for a new center: the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.

The center will be part of a national consortium of 24 institutions that NIH began funding last year in hopes that collaboration among scientists will speed the development of medical breakthroughs.

Hopkins officials said the university received one of the largest awards among the 12 new institutions added to the consortium this year.

"As a powerhouse of research, Johns Hopkins will be a very strong partner in the consortium," said Dr. Barbara M. Alving, director of the NIH's National Center for Research Resources.

The NIH award totals about $100 million, but more than half of it replaces funding for research projects that were set to be renewed, said Dr. Daniel Ford, vice dean for clinical investigation at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Still, the money represents a shift in NIH's priorities, led by director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, toward promoting translational research, the kind of scientific enterprise that produces tangible results for patients.

Ford said the structure of the funding will force Hopkins and other institutions to work together and become more organized in their approach to medical science.

The new system also will encourage collaboration among scientists who focus on basic laboratory experiments and clinical researchers who work with patients.

"We act in an uncoordinated ways sometimes," Ford said. "We may have one researcher at Bayview and one at Johns Hopkins Hospital who are working on a similar problem but don't deal with each other."

In addition to funding experiments, Hopkins plans to use the money to build an infrastructure that encourages collaboration, Ford said. The institution also plans to train scientists how to lead research efforts involving people from different sub-specialties.

"We evolve into these highly technical units," he said, "but we also need the infrastructure and people whose job it is to cross those bridges."

NIH's Alving stressed that Hopkins will share what it finds to work best in translating research into practice with the 23 other academic health centers receiving the funds.

"They will bring a lot of firepower to the consortium," she said of Hopkins.

Ford said he hopes the funding strategy will strengthen the medical science establishment in the United States, but he is waiting to see if the mandated collaboration works.

"It's a big idea and a big plan," Ford said. "And hopefully, it won't collapse under its own weight."

chris.emery@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jonathan D. Rockoff contributed to this article.

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