The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the UNM Health Sciences Center (HSC) one of 52 academic health center planning grants to participate in a new national research consortium. The planning grant will pave the way for the HSC to become part of the new NIH system designed to streamline the "bench to bedside" process of medical research while ensuring communities are full participants in the efforts and that results are translated quickly and effectively into medical and health care treatments.

"This funding will completely rewrite the way the HSC addresses its research mission with a new focus on community input and results," said Richard Larson, M.D., PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Research. Translational research is research that takes basic medical breakthroughs and ‘translates' them by making new treatments available to patients and health professionals.

UNM's patient base reflects the state's diverse population and the UNM HSC has a long history of research tailored to directly benefit those patients. This program will go even further in enhancing those partnerships by establishing training programs for researchers including a new Master's Science degree in Clinical and Translational Research as well as a training program for students in graduate school, nursing school, pharmacy school, or medical school that will assist them in becoming better translational investigators.

"We know that New Mexico is attractive to the National Institutes of Health because of our unique populations," said Executive Vice President for the Health Sciences Paul Roth, M.D. "Our participation in this major revamping of how American academic medical centers conduct research can only benefit our patients in communities throughout the state. "

In 2005, the UNM HSC reorganized its research efforts into five Signature Research Programs focused around critical health programs affecting New Mexico residents. The programs are: Cancer Biology; Brain and Behavioral Illnesses; Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease; Environmental Health Sciences; and Infectious Diseases and Immunity.

The UNM HSC Cancer Treatment and Research Center is devoted to Cancer Biology research. The other four programs will receive support through the newly created Clinical and Translational Science Centers (CTSCs) throughout the country. At UNM, Mark Burge, M.D., Department of Medicine, will serve as director of the UNM CTSC.

"Our mission is to provide state-of-the-art infrastructure for the performance of clinical and translational research impacting New Mexican communities as well as providing administrative support and research education for health professions students and practitioners from across the state," said Burge. Educational efforts will include funding support for health professionals and their research throughout their careers as well as creation of new educational programs.

"Dozens of faculty members from departments, programs and colleges throughout the health sciences center have been able to cross traditional research lines and come together in unprecedented ways as a part of this planning effort. Those efforts have been rewarded in the awarding of this planning grant," said Burge.

"Because of their efforts, the UNM Health Sciences Center is guaranteed a place of prominence in the academic health center research that will be conducted in the future," said Roth.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322