The University of Southern Maine is partnering with Maine Medical Center and the University of Vermont on a $20 million National Institutes of Health initiative aimed at quickening the speed at which research makes the ‘bench-to-bedside’ journey from the laboratory to improved patient care.
The five-year grant will establish the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network. Researchers at Maine Medical Center and the University of Vermont will work to develop and implement medical treatments for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and substance abuse.
USM will receive about $1.5 million to monitor the success of the many pieces of the project — administration; pilot projects; professional development; clinical research design, epidemiology and biostatistics; translational research technologies; and rural health delivery and research.
"Rural states like Maine and Vermont face unique challenges in making sure that the latest medical and public health breakthroughs are reaching their remote residents,” said Erika Ziller, a senior research associate and deputy director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center at USM's Muskie School for Public Service. “Under the leadership of Maine Medical Center and the University of Vermont, the research network has the opportunity to move that needle, and we're thrilled USM can be part of this collaboration."
USM researchers will help select program metrics, develop a data tracking system, collect and analyze data and report on project milestones.
“This grant provides an opportunity for us to evaluate new approaches for translating research and ultimately improving the health of our communities, including those living in rural areas," said Brenda Joly, chair of the graduate program in Public Health and an associate research professor at the Muskie School.
The project will include support for graduate students, providing multiple research assistantships each year.
“One of the hallmarks of this research is an emphasis on multidisciplinary 'team science,' so exposing some of USM's public health students to the medical research process will offer them a great professional development opportunity," Ziller said.