The Translational Research Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has received a five-year, $24.2 million National Institutes of Health grant, UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson announced Wednesday (July 3).
The Clinical and Translational Science Award will help the Institute apply research to new treatments and other health interventions, with a focus on rural Arkansas. It comes from the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
“It’s a major award from the NIH, and a major accomplishment to get one,” Patterson said in announcing the award. “Competition for these awards is fierce.”
The grant will aid the Institute as it researches health issues including opioids, pain management, diabetes, obesity, and mental health. It will focus on health problems for Arkansans in rural areas who do not live near a hospital. Patterson said the grant will allow UAMS to expand discovery work into communities while also “turning communities and neighborhoods into laboratories.”
Dr. Laura James, the Institute’s director, said the grant will fund approximately 20 junior faculty members through two-year training programs to develop and conduct research projects, and also help them obtain other grants. It will fund at least 40 smaller pilot grants to develop research projects for rural and special populations. It will bring clinical trials to Arkansas. And it will launch a new training program teaching graduate students at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Sam M. Walton College of Business about research commercialization. Students will be paired with UAMS faculty who have research ideas that could lead to new products.
UAMS has already started some of this work because it was aware it might win the award, James said. UAMS submitted its application in May 2018 and learned in January it had a good chance of winning. It received confirmation July 1. Patterson said this will add to UAMS’ $170 million in federal government support.
James said NIH awarded the grant because of UAMS’ previous accomplishments in working with communities and also because of the grant application’s rural emphasis. The grant will allow UAMS to work with other healthcare organizations including Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. She said community partners will help the Institute decide which projects are the most important to pursue.
“These grants tend to congregate on either coast,” she said. “I think they saw the strength of having one here in Arkansas, and our dedication to health care disparities and problems with rural populations.”
James said more than 60 faculty members and more than 100 staff members assisted with the grant application, which included more than 1,000 pages detailing research opportunities.
Patterson thanked U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., for helping UAMS with the award.