IU, Purdue land prestigious research grant

Indiana and Purdue universities will create a new medical research program after receiving a $25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the universities announced today.

IU and Purdue will launch the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute to turn scientific and medical discoveries more quickly into better care for patients and into new commercialized medical products.

The money will be given over five years to the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis. The medical school will combine those funds with $56 million appropriated by IU and Purdue, the state and Eli Lilly and Co. to fund the research program.

The Clinical and Translational Science Award is one of 38 such grants given by the NIH since 2006. The grants are coveted by medical research centers because they are seen as marking out the nation’s top-tier medical schools. Other recipients this year include Harvard, Ohio State and Stanford universities.

“It’s not just the money; it’s what the award says,” said David Johnson, CEO of BioCrossroads Inc., a group that promotes life sciences development in central Indiana. “What it does is to cement the medical school on the map among the schools of the 21st century.”

BioCrossroads and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. will be partners in the initiative. So, too, will Clarian Health, Cook Group, Roche Diagnostics and WellPoint Inc.

Dr. Anantha Shekhar, a psychiatrist who is IU’s assistant vice president for life sciences, will direct the institute.

Its deputy directors are Connie Weaver, head of Purdue’s foods and nutrition program, and Bennett Bertenthal, dean of the IU College of Arts and Sciences in Bloomington.

Purdue will contribute not only research, but also will use its network of extension offices in Indiana’s 92 counties to try to disseminate the institute’s findings to health care providers and to solicit their input for research projects.

The funding marks a new strategy for the NIH, which is shrinking the amount of money it gives to basic medical research in order to spend more on efforts to apply research breakthroughs in clinics and companies.

“The consortium (of schools) serves as the bridge in this process that allows researchers to perfect and refine existing treatment through interdisciplinary teams that extend to the clinic and community,” NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni said in a statement.

The Indiana institute will create a Web-based home called CTSI HUB that will include a database of researchers and their work, research programs, and available experts. The goal is to help all the participants in the statewide initiative to communicate more effectively.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie said the initiative ultimately will make IU and Purdue researchers more competitive for winning other grant money.

“The institute harnesses all of Indiana’s major life sciences research centers into a commonly focused enterprise that will give Indiana’s research scientists many new advantages in finding ways to do their work more effectively and efficiently,” McRobbie said in a statement.’

The NIH announced a total of 14 grants today for a combined $533 million. The size of IU’s grant is below the average grant size of $38 million.

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