Last week, UNLV hosted a group of nearly 110 research investigators and leaders, biostaticians, vice presidents of research, and others who came to Las Vegas from 13 major state universities of the Mountain West region who are partners in the Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure (CTR-IN) Program.
, hosted by UNLV, is funded by a $20 million grant over five years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build and increase research capacity in the Mountain West region. The CTR-IN program covers one third of the U.S. landmass, and includes Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. The universities include: the University of Alaska in Anchorage and Fairbanks; University of Montana; Montana State University; University of Wyoming; University of Idaho; Boise State University; Idaho State University; University of Nevada Reno; University of Hawaii; University of New Mexico; Mexico State University; and UNLV (the parent institution) located in this region. Besides building research capacity to make the Mountain West research faculty more competitive for NIH awards by funding pilot grants of about $65,000 each, the grant also funds biostaticians at each of the 13 Mountain West Universities, links investigators with mentors, and provides "mock study" section reviews prior to their grant submissions, including "targeted" grant writing workshops.
The NIH annually funds $32.3 billion in medical research through 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state, and around the world. One of the branches of the NIH is the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The NIGMS has a special program called the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program for the 23 states (i.e., "IDeA states) that have less than half as much federally funded research as the other 27 states. The IDeA program consists of three major programs: the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), and the CTR-IN. The 46 U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives from these 23 IDeA states monitor annual funding from the NIH to ensure adequate resources for their region.
Parvesh Kumar, MD, UNLV School of Medicine, is the principal investigator (PI) for the CTR-IN grant. He and his executive committee organized this year's annual three-day meeting. The primary focus of this year's meeting was to prepare for renewal of the grant, which will be due early this fall to the NIH. In order to prepare for the grant renewal, the Mountain West CTR-IN program invited PIs of other Mountain West COBRE and INBRE programs and the national CTRs to leverage resources and co-funding opportunities for the Mountain West university research investigators.
Fourth Annual Meeting highlights
The plenary speaker for the Fourth Annual Mountain West CTR-IN program was the Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, former governor of Kansas and the former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who had oversight of the NIH for four years. The Honorable Dina Titus, U.S. House of Representative for District #1, also joined her for the welcome networking reception and dinner Monday evening at the Smith Center. In addition, four previous awardees shared their experience of how the CTR-IN pilot grants have positively impacted their academic careers by helping them secure additional NIH and other federal funding for their research to improve the health of residents in their communities. In fact, the Mountain West CTR-IN program has funded 69 pilot grants for a total of $4.33 million, which has yielded $13.9 million in extramural grant funding, representing a rate of return of 320 percent. Overall, the UNLV CTR-IN program has invested over $10 million to fund pilot grants, biostaticians, and other awards for the other 12 Mountain West universities.
You are probably wondering what these pilot grants fund? The focus of these grants is to fund clinical research involving humans, which can potentially improve the health of the Mountain West region residents. For example, one of the pilot grant awardees is developing a "computer model" to better assist orthopedic surgeons with the best surgical technique in patients with cerebral palsy. Another pilot grant awardee is developing methods to improve driver attention by combining driver behavior with physiological measurements to reduce automobile crashes and fatalities.
On the third day of the meeting, Dr. Kumar and his fellow directors of the CTR-IN program from the other Mountain West universities met to plan for their grant renewal. I look forward to learning about the ideas and innovation generated from these discussions and that will become part of the renewal application.
Research is a critical and exciting part of every medical school, and it will be no different at the UNLV School of Medicine. We look forward to growing our research presence with our students and growing faculty to benefit the community and the world.