UD President Patrick Harker hailed the "investment in the future of Delaware."

Collaboration celebration

Event launches program to support research infrastructure development in Delaware

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4:21 p.m., Feb. 10, 2014--More than 100 people representing all sectors of the health sciences community turned out on Friday, Feb. 7, at the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus for the launch of a new program that has the potential to write the next chapter of clinical and translational medicine in Delaware.

The event was held to celebrate a $20-million Clinical and Translational Research (CTR) award from the National Institutes of Health aimed at fostering productive partnerships between basic and clinical scientists. The state of Delaware is supporting the program, known as ACCEL, with an additional $5 million.

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Led by Stuart Binder-Macleod, associate vice provost for clinical research at UD, ACCEL brings together researchers from UD, Christiana Care Health System, Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children (Nemours), and the Medical University of South Carolina

“The awarding of this grant represents a tremendous achievement and demonstration of cooperation between three outstanding Delaware institutions and our valued partner, the Medical University of South Carolina,” he said. 

Gov. Jack Markell, whose recent State of the State address focused on job creation said, “Growing jobs in Delaware will require workforce development as well as innovation, and what better place for these two to come together than here at UD. This program will not only advance basic research but also translate the findings in a way that will benefit our health and our economy.”

UD’s new Health Sciences Complex on the STAR Campus occupies a completely renovated building that formerly served as the administrative headquarters for a Chrysler auto assembly plant. 

University President Patrick Harker referred to the new facility as “an investment in the future of Delaware, an investment in the wellness of our people and the strength of our economy.”

Both U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and U.S. Rep. John Carney expressed their belief that the CTR funding will ultimately lead to better health care at a lower cost for the state’s growing elderly population.

Dr. William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care and leader of one of the core technical efforts in the new program, said that Delaware is the best state in the nation for studying population health.

“That’s why community engagement is such an important part of this program,” he added. “This is the best collaboration I can think of for a grant aimed at building the infrastructure for population health.”

Steve Kautz, chair of the Department of Health Sciences and Research at the Medical University of South Carolina, participated in the kickoff remotely via the new facility’s video-conferencing technology.  He said that he and colleagues in South Carolina can bring to the CTR what they’ve learned from an ongoing clinical and translational science award there, while they can learn a great deal from Delaware as a leader in statewide initiatives.

Vicky Funanage, director of the Department of Biomedical Research at Nemours, will chair the ACCEL program’s Internal Advisory Board. “This grant will help us to break down institutional barriers and bring new institutional opportunities,” she said. “It will also establish a statewide network that will enable any Delawarean to participate in clinical studies.”

According to Binder-Macleod, the program comprises a number of components, including funding for:

  • Pilot grants that will allow new investigators to test and develop promising ideas;
  • Support in design and analysis of clinical and translational research projects;
  • Mentoring for junior scientists and clinicians;
  • Recruitment and hiring of talented new investigators at all four institutions; and
  • Community engagement to address healthcare challenges facing the citizens of Delaware.

The first round of pilot grants was recently awarded, with two going to each participating institution. The initial projects address topics ranging from childhood obesity and breast cancer to cardiovascular health in women and cardiac surgery for infants.

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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