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August 16, 2012
By Pam Kasey
MORGANTOWN – Health care advances enabled by the $20 million National Institutes of Health award announced Aug. 15 by West Virginia University will be significant — but just as important for the state may be the meaning behind the award.
“This NIH grant serves to instantly propel WVU Health Sciences onto a higher level as a research institution,” said WVU Health Sciences Chancellor Christopher Colenda.
The five-year NIH Institutional Development Award Program for Clinical and Translational Research award, with additional commitments from around the state that take the total to $53 million, supports the work of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute to tighten the connection between laboratory research and improvements in health care.
With this grant, WVU joins the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium, a network of about 60 medical research institutions in 30 states and the District of Columbia. These institutions are working to speed the translation of research discovery into improved patient care.
The award represents “an endorsement from the highest levels of biomedical research establishment that WVU is on the right path,” according to WVU President James Clements.
“National Institutes of Health tends to be a leading indicator if you will on where subsequent private sector biomedical breakthroughs occur — where products develop and are entered into the marketplace,” said Ross DeVol, chief research officer at innovation think tank the Milken Institute.
This funding sends the message that WVU Health Sciences is on the map, DeVol said.
“It’s kind of like the gold plating,” he said. “When the NIH says, ‘We’re going to make a major funding commitment to your university,’ it raises awareness to the private sector that there’s outstanding clinical research practices there and it tends to generate interest in a private sector and subsequent follow-on investments.”
That can lead to additional research and development and new commercializations as well as the siting of new divisions of existing biomedical firms.
“Look around the country at which universities received substantial NIH funding many years ago,” DeVol said. “Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Raleigh-Durham — they tend to be the leading life science centers in the country today.”
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