The University of Michigan announced Wednesday it was awarded a $58 million grant from the National Institute of Health to fund medical research — the largest grant of its kind the University has received.
The grant, provided by the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards program, will go directly to the University’s Michigan Institute for Clinical Health and Research.
MICHR Director George Mashour said compared to other grants received by the University this one is “several orders of magnitude higher.”
Translational science is the process of taking the results of laboratory work, known as foundational science, and transferring its information to a useful application, like fighting a disease. In addition to other services, the MICHR facilitates and provides training for this clinical research. Mashour emphasized just how essential this grant and the grant-awarding process in general are to the MICHR’s work.
“This NIH grant really forms the basis of our institute’s work,” he said. “If we didn’t have it, it would be extremely difficult and extremely expensive for the institution to help support all the services that we offer. Unlike other institutes, we’re not doing the research itself. We don’t have a specific disease in mind, like the Cancer Center or the Depression Center. We’re really here to be the tide that helps all boats rise.”
Engineering junior Natalie Baxter, who is an undergraduate research in the Shea Lab investigating cancer initiation, agreed, saying smaller divisions like hers appreciated the grant money.
“Working in a lab has given me insight to how much time and money goes into each project,” she said. “The research team in my lab is working really hard to find breakthroughs in research on several medical challenges. A lot of obstacles need to be overcome just to turn an idea into an experiment and eventually a clinical trial, so it’s reassuring to see that big organizations are willing to invest so much in research at the University of Michigan.”
In a press release from the University, Vicki Ellingrod, associate director of MICHR, leader of its education team and associate dean for research and education in the College of Pharmacy, said in addition to aiding the many programs and studies the MICHR services, the grant would help the MICHR expand its own programs.
“The new grant will allow us to expand some of our most successful training programs in translational research and develop new ones,” she said. “Perhaps what is most exciting about our new grant is that we will now be able to work more directly with patients, research participants and groups within the community, and learn how to guide research in collaboration with our MICHR scholars.”
The University is one of over 50 institutes funded by the NIH to promote translational science and research. According to Mashour, the grant will allow the University to connect more effectively with other such institutions.
“Traditionally, these institutes are really focused more on their institution, they’re doing great work, they’re doing some collaboration together, but they weren’t really functioning as a full network,” he said. “And where we’re moving now, in this exciting phase at the national level, is really to try to link up all of these institutes and come to common agreements, related to, say, regulatory affairs or approaches to conducting clinical research, and try to leverage the whole nation.”
In addition to the medical researchers and patients who will feel the positive effects of the grant, so will students like LSA senior Brennan Munley, who participates in research at the University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“It definitely helps me out, in the way that it’s gonna provide clinical jobs, and ways to get experience and just to get into the hospital, and get some experience,” he said. “It’ll help me on my long-term path, whether I go to med school or PA school or pharmacy school, whatever I decide to do, it’ll definitely help me get in some experience.”