UF, FSU receive grant for community-based clinical research

$600,000 from the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida

The University of Florida and the Florida State University College of Medicine today jointly received $600,000 from the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida to strengthen research, education and service efforts in public health and to boost economic growth.

The award, under the 2010 New Florida Initiative Scholar’s Clustering Grant Program, aims to foster collaborations among state institutions in the areas of health, science and engineering. It is part of a broader program to engage the state university system in the creation of high-skill, high-wage, knowledge-based employment opportunities.

The funds will support the UF-FSU Community Research Collaborative Program, a research effort that combines UF’s expertise in clinical and translational science research with FSU’s strength in community-based medical education.

“Working together, the universities will create new opportunities and advances not only for physicians, scientists and students, but most importantly, for the citizens of Florida, as we explore patient-oriented research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases,” said David Nelson, M.D., director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute and co-principal investigator of the project.

The project will establish a statewide network of facilities affiliated with the two universities that will connect local communities with teams of clinical scientists, physicians and physicians-in-training, creating new opportunities to conduct clinical and public health research.

“Working with physicians in community settings will provide new and invaluable research opportunities where the majority of patients get their health care in Florida,” said John P. Fogarty, M.D., dean of the FSU College of Medicine.

Initial efforts will involve the assessment and monitoring of mild traumatic brain injury and of health risk behaviors among youngsters in Florida.

The project will give physicians and medical students access to state-of-the-art instruments that will allow surveillance, detection and follow-up of mild traumatic brain injury cases among youth who take part in organized sports.

It will also involve collaborating with pediatricians and family practice physicians to evaluate practices already in use for assessing and monitoring health risk factors such as diet, exercise and obesity in children and adolescents, and seeing how information technology can aid the process.

“This is a huge opportunity to expand our ability to engage physicians and patients across the state in clinical research, with the goal of improving health,” said Michael Conlon, Ph.D., chief operating officer of the UF CTSI. “We’re going to be able to do community-based research across the state because of this partnership.”

The grant is one of seven that UF received in collaboration with other Florida institutions to quickly establish projects that can produce results in a short time. FSU also received seven collaborative grants to fund projects ranging from the development of high-performance prostheses to studying climate change.

In addition to FSU, UF’s partners for the other projects include Florida A&M University, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University for projects to:

* address disease prevention and other health care issues in rural and urban environments.

* establish a task force to study and model climate change.

* expand broadband and enhance supercomputing capabilities across the state.

* facilitate biomedical engineering research and education efforts in the state.

* develop “smart sensors” for environmental monitoring.

* optimize detection, prevention and treatment of vector-borne diseases.

In addition, UF received “Scholars Boost” awards to help with recruiting noted researchers in health and science and in chemistry, and to construct a veterinary research facility. In all, UF received $2.5 million in New Florida 2010 awards.

UF’s resources for the Community Research Collaborative Program with FSU include the long experience and expertise of researchers in the CTSI in clinical studies and biomedical informatics. That will enable researchers to formulate sound protocols for collection and analysis of vast amounts of health data relating to the entire state or to subsets of the population. The institute integrates the research and training activities of 12 colleges, two clinical campuses, two regional health care systems and connections in all 67 counties in the state.

FSU has an established and well-managed network around the state for educating medical students in community and private practice settings. That system consists of six regional campuses and two rural training sites, and involves more than 1,900 participating physicians whose patients number more than 2 million.

“Our community-based medical education model is vital to our mission of focusing on primary care and in the development of the FSU Clinical Research Network that will involve hundreds of medical practices in six cities across the state,” said Michael Muszynski, M.D., regional campus dean for research at FSU. “With these relationships and this grant we’ve got a great first step in putting community-based health care research to work for the people of Florida.”

The collaboration stands to have a large economic impact on the state. Research that allows health risk identification, disease marker detection and injury avoidance will lead to savings in dollars that would otherwise be spent to treat illness.

“In addition, with an established clinical research infrastructure we will be in position to attract even more research dollars to the state and help address a slate of other health issues, as well,” said Myra Hurt, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research and graduate programs at the FSU’s College of Medicine, who is co-principal investigator of the project.

Medical students are also winners because they will participate in clinical research. That experience will help produce better trained physicians who are aware of current research and able to incorporate medical advances into their practice.

“This new program, grant and FSU partnership accelerate our commitment to move medical advances from university laboratories into Florida communities, making positive and lasting differences in the lives of the people of Florida,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “Our mutual goal is to change lives for the better and significantly improve health throughout our state.”

For more information on the New Florida Initiative and the funded projects, visit www.flbog.edu/new_florida.