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June 6, 2006

U-M Health System receives $30.6 million grant to continue clinical research program

More than 6,900 outpatient visits took place at the center's multiple sites last fiscal year

ANN ARBOR, MI –The University of Michigan Health System has been awarded a $30.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund its General Clinical Research Center for five more years, effective retroactively from March 1. The GCRC is an inpatient and outpatient unit that serves patients and their families who are participating in a research study under doctors’ care.

GCRC logoAwarded by NIH's National Center for Research Resources in a rigorous competition, the grant funds specialized facilities, staff and resources that support as many as 200 patient-oriented studies at any given time. The U-M's GCRC is among the oldest and largest in the nation's system of more than 70 such centers, and the only one in Michigan. It has been continually funded for 45 years; the new five-year grant will fund years 46–50.

“The award allows UMHS to continue and strengthen its long tradition of providing a home for cutting-edge clinical research that gives patients access to the latest advances in medicine,” says Robert Kelch, M.D., Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of the U-M Health System.

More than 3,370 adult and pediatric patients come to the center each year to participate in studies of medical conditions and trials of innovative therapies from gene therapy for AIDS to treatment of Wilson’s Disease.

The GCRC is the institutional focal point for multidisciplinary clinical research, testing, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and training. The grant provides core funding for studies that address dozens of medical conditions and phenomena. For example, GCRC investigators are currently working to understand or find new treatment strategies for cardiovascular disease; cancers of the lung, breast, liver, lymph nodes, nerve cells, pancreas and skin; diabetes and other hormonal disorders; depression; fibromyalgia; menopause; high blood pressure; thyroid disease; psoriasis; rheumatoid arthritis; childhood cancers; and lupus.

"For nearly 50 years, the GCRC has provided a setting for our researchers to take the knowledge gained through basic research to develop new approaches for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease,” says John Wiley, M.D., GCRC program director. “And because the GCRC supports a full spectrum of patient-oriented scientific inquiry, researchers can benefit from collaborative, multidisciplinary research opportunities.”

Recently, the NIH has put forward a funding opportunity that will build on the historical success of GCRCs to further strengthen the infrastructure to support clinical and translational research and increase the number of researchers that are trained in these areas. By 2010, the GCRC funding mechanism will end and be replaced by the Clinical and Translational Sciences Award. Institutions began competing for the new CTSA award this year.

“While the University of Michigan is nicely situated with a newly refunded GCRC, we are being aggressive in trying to obtain a CTSA grant as quickly as possible. Such a grant will expand our infrastructure for doing high quality clinical and translational research at the University of Michigan and will also strengthen our clinical research training programs,” says Kelch.

Wiley and Roberta Proft, M.B.A., the GCRC's administrative director, oversee the center's activities and more than 40 staff members. More than 580 researchers are involved with studies at the GCRC, performing research funded by the NIH, other federal agencies and industry. All research is overseen by an advisory board and strictly adheres to federal guidelines for studies involving humans.

Since the last grant was awarded in 2001, the GCRC has expanded its outpatient outreach into the community. In addition to its 12-bed inpatient unit in University Hospital that includes four high-intensity outpatient beds and two dedicated rooms for sleep studies, the GCRC operates three outpatient clinics: one each at the Med Inn, Domino Farms and the Ypsilanti Health Center. The emphasis on outpatient visits reflects a growing trend in clinical trial design and medicine in general. Last fiscal year showed a 3 percent increase in outpatient visits to 6,787. The GCRC also logged 1,123 inpatient days, an increase of 7 percent from the previous fiscal year.

GCRC Fact Sheet

Written by Mary Beth Reilly

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