Major $18 Million NIH Grant Accelerates Dartmouth’s Translational Research

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Dartmouth has been awarded $18 million in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) highly competitive Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program.

The five-year grant will be matched by an additional $20 million from Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system, for a total investment of $38 million in translational science at Dartmouth College, the Geisel School, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt.

Professor Duane Compton and Research Associate Lilian Kabeche

Professor Duane Compton and Research Associate Lilian Kabeche, both researchers at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, have made discoveries regarding cell division that may improve the understanding and treatment of cancer. Dartmouth’s recent NIH grant will support translational research across the institution. (Courtesy of the Geisel School of Medicine)

Translational research brings laboratory discoveries to clinical practice, transforming scientific and therapeutic breakthroughs into new treatments, cures, and other improved health outcomes for patients.

“This $38 million public and institutional investment is a game-changer for Dartmouth. It will transform our capacity to innovate and produce research that makes a difference in people’s health and lives,” says Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon ’77.

The funding will support health care innovation at Dartmouth and accelerate the development of new treatments, using the power of data, emerging technologies, and collaboration across disciplines, schools, and institutions.

“This award recognizes Dartmouth’s established strengths in life sciences and health outcomes research while providing significant resources to dramatically increase the impact of our research on population health,” says Dr. Alan I. Green, the grant’s principal investigator and director of Dartmouth SYNERGY: The Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which was launched in 2010. Green is also a professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Geisel and at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

“People want to know that publicly funded research produces tangible benefits,” Green says. “Translational scientists at SYNERGY are changing the landscape for biomedical research so that research findings can be quickly leveraged into new treatments, with a strong focus on preventing disease and on more effective ways of delivering care.”

Dr. Alan Green

Dr. Alan Green, principal investigator on Dartmouth’s major new NIH grant for translational research, directs Dartmouth SYNERGY: The Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “People want to know that publicly funded research produces tangible benefits,” says Green. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

“This Clinical and Translational Science Award from NIH is a major achievement for Dartmouth, and will have benefits for many of the patients and communities we serve,” says Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO and President Dr. James N. Weinstein. “Its discoveries will advance our progress in creating a sustainable health system as we move the innovation of our researchers and researcher-clinicians into clinical practice here at Dartmouth-Hitchcock to improve the health and health care of our region.”

SYNERGY is a collaborative effort involving scholars, researchers, and clinicians in Dartmouth’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences and its professional schools—the Geisel School, which includes The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, the Tuck School of Business, and Thayer School of Engineering; the Dartmouth-Hitchcock system; the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., with affiliates throughout Northern New England; and the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science.

With this funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), Dartmouth becomes the first institution in Northern New England to join the CTSA Consortium, a nationally prominent network of 60 medical research institutions in 30 states and the District of Columbia. The closest consortium partners are in the Greater Boston area—Harvard University, Boston University, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Martin Wybourne, interim provost and vice provost for research, says, “Academic medical centers must be better equipped to efficiently translate lab discoveries into treatments available to doctors and patients. With this grant, Dartmouth is marshaling expertise and resources from across the institution to address this issue through programs that remove barriers and facilitate collaboration.”

“Along with the construction of the new Williamson Translational Research Building, this NIH award will have a truly transformational impact on our research and education programs,” says Dr. Wiley “Chip” Souba, dean of the Geisel School. “Our Clinical and Translational Science Institute will help us build our signature research programs, accelerate the translation of discoveries from bench to bedside and bedside to community, and develop a strong pipeline of emerging clinical and translational researchers.”

NCATS, the newest of 27 NIH Institutes and Centers, was established in December 2011 to transform the translational science process to speed the delivery to patients of new treatments and cures for disease.

CTSA Consortium members share resources and access to intellectual property, technology, and data. With Dartmouth’s entry into the network, consortium members will gain access to Dartmouth’s well-known expertise in working with large health care datasets through the Dartmouth Atlas, particularly Medicare claims data, to inform research initiatives. By joining the consortium, Dartmouth investigators will have access to new technologies and partners to feed research ideas.

Consortium resources include:

  • A web-based tool promoting technologies from consortium institutions and the NIH to enhance research activity and encourage private partnerships (CTSA-IP)
  • A registry matching individuals nationwide with opportunities to participate in research studies, including clinical trials (ResearchMatch)
  • A database of potential industry partners seeking new ideas and products (i2iConnect)
  • Databases enabling scientists to evaluate compounds that might be used to treat other conditions (CTSpedia)

The availability of large population databases at Dartmouth helps complete the circle of translational research, with information from practice and community care driving new scientific investigation.

“For example, we know that with total knee replacement, most patients have good outcomes, but a small percentage don’t,” says Green. “Why is it that some don’t do well? Examining clinical data from large populations can lead us to new insights and areas of inquiry.”

Dartmouth SYNERGY will eventually be based in Geisel’s new Williamson Translational Research Building, which will be located on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock campus in Lebanon, N.H. Construction was approved by both the Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock boards of trustees in June 2012 and is currently under way. The building is scheduled to open in 2015.

Video: Dr. Alan Green–What is the CTSA?