The average American likely knows very little about translational medicine, a discipline that seeks to “translate” clinical research into new tools, treatments, policies and more to improve public and individual health. For the biomedical community, however, translational medicine is an important subject, causing organizations and scientists to dedicate millions in funding and years of effort to biobanking, various projects, and more. For example, the Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium for Translational Medicine recently awarded $1.9 million to several different research projects, furthering the application of this practice to autoimmune diseases.
The Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium was designed to support translational medicine in both the public and private sectors. Accordingly, their recent grants were awarded in collaboration with their industry partners, Eli Lilly and Co. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc., two international pharmaceutical companies. The program gives $400,000 to five research projects at medical research universities in the Midwest, which will be used to provide a two-year investment in each group’s work. These research projects focus on multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, Crohn’s disease, dermatomyositis and scleroderma.
The grants will likely be extremely helpful to these different teams, as translational research often features a variety of scientific expenses. Take biobanking, for example: whether a biological freezer inventory is maintained by an academic institution, company, or other private group, 57% of these facilities rely on funding from the federal government to support their operations. In many cases, this funding is necessary to invest in high-quality laboratory sample management software: while the number of tissues was estimated at more than 300 million in 2000 and is increasing by 20 million a year, a 2011 study of more than 700 cancer researchers found that 47% had trouble finding quality biobank samples.
One of the most exciting projects affected by the Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium’s grants is led by Dr. Yanjio Zhou of Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). His research team, which includes assistant professor of neurology Dr. Laura Piccio and Ohio State University’s associate professor of microbial infection and immunology Dr. Amy Lovett-Racke, is studying the function of gut bacteria in patients with MS. Microbiology has become a hot topic in the scientific community in recent years and is believed to hold the answer to a number of conditions.
Meanwhile, other recipients include Dr. Anthony R. French, an associate professor of pediatrics, pathology, immunology and biomedical engineering at WUSTL, and Lauren M. Pachman, professor of pediatrics-rheumatology at Northwestern University. Both are currently studying juvenile dermatomyositis. Likewise, Dr. Gwendalyn Randolph, professor of pathology and immunology, immunobiology and internal medicine at WUSTL, and Dr. Razvan Arsenescuwere, the associate professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University, also were awarded grants for their research on intestinal fibrosis caused by Crohn’s disease.