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$20M grant for UAMS links with 60-school effort

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A $20 million research grant announced by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Tuesday is the largest the medical school has received and, according to the UAMS chancellor, its most important.

The grant will bring UAMS into an effort involving 60 institutions that will work together to reduce the time it takes for medical innovations to develop into cures for diseases.

The money is from the National Institutes for Health, which by 2012 will be devoting $500 million to the effort.

"This is the most significant research grant UAMS has ever received and not only solidifies the standing of UAMS among the country's elite academic health centers, but also ensures that the important work being done here quickly moves to the bedside to have a tangible impact on Arkansas patients," UAMS Chancellor Dr. I. Dodd Wilson said.

The university has received larger sums as private donations, including $48 million for the Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute. But until Tuesday, the largest research grant was $18.5 million received by the UAMS Myeloma Institute.

The grant from the NIH's National Center for Research Resources will be used by the university's Center for Clinical and Translational Research, which is to operate from the old UAMS hospital building. The campus opened a new $200 million hospital building in January.

Lawrence Cornett, vice chancellor for research and executive associate dean, said the work will help improve care for people in Arkansas, not just assist other schools.

"The specific demographics and problems faced by Arkansans present unique research opportunities and resources, and our results will provide a richer picture of public health for the ... consortium," he said.

Now that it is a member of the consortium, UAMS can send projects and funding to the other institutions that are in the program. UAMS can also be brought into other projects and get a share of funding from other the institutions.

Lead investigator for the grant proposal, Dr. Curtis Lowery, said that with the money, UAMS can streamline its infrastructure and said the school looks forward to "integrating UAMS research into clinical use."

Lowery, the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department chairman, also said the grant will help with research that UAMS conducts with other centers, including Arkansas Children's Hospital and the National Center for Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff.

UAMS Medical School Dean Dr. Debra Fiser said the school is devoting its recruiting and teaching emphasis to "translational investigators," who bring innovations out of the laboratory and into use for patients. The consortium wants to help commercialize its innovations through private and public health organizations, pharmaceutical companies and business incubators.

Other schools receiving new funding under the program are: Medical University of South Carolina, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, New York University School of Medicine, University of Florida, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Texas Medical Branch.