Release Date: August 13, 2015
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The $15 million grant to the University at Buffalo announced by the National Institutes of Health brings to the region significant resources to help UB and its partners expedite the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments, in part, by emphasizing partnerships with underserved communities in Western New York.
“A key goal of this grant is to engage the entire Western New York community to gain the trust of diverse populations in Western New York and to break down barriers so that patients throughout our region can participate in, and benefit from, the most innovative medical treatments,” explained Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in UB’s Department of Medicine and principal investigator on the grant with co-principal investigator John M. Canty, MD, also a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine.
“UB and its partners have developed a unique set of solutions on this grant specifically to address health disparities in our community,” Murphy said.
One of those solutions is the Department of Family Medicine’s Patient Voices program, a patient empowerment partnership between UB’s Department of Family Medicine and patients from UBMD Family Medicine at Jefferson, Jericho Road Family Practice and CleveHill Family Practice. Led by UB’s Primary Care Research Institute and UB family medicine professor Laurene Tumiel-Berhalter, PhD, the network gets patients living with chronic illness to work together to improve primary care and to boost the rate of cancer screenings at the network's practice partners.
The new grant will build on those efforts and enhance the recruitment into clinical trials of underserved patient populations, including African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, refugees, children and the elderly.
“This grant will invite representatives of underserved communities to serve on its steering committee, giving voice to their concerns and ideas,” said Tumiel-Berhalter.
Innovations that will enhance patient recruitment were developed by Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, principal investigator of UB’s Women’s Health Initiative Center, one of 40 centers across the country responsible for implementing the landmark, National Institutes of Health-funded study, one of the largest clinical trials ever conducted in the U.S. Wactawski-Wende is dean of the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Also focused on community engagement in the grant is Drucy Borowitz, MD, a clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, with UBMD Pediatrics, who is also a member of the CTSA steering committee. A nationally known pediatric pulmonologist, Borowitz has led clinical trials at UB and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo that have brought revolutionary treatments for cystic fibrosis to children in Western New York.
“Cystic fibrosis is a life-shortening disease,” explained Borowitz, “but by developing and testing new drugs, we have been able to change the course of this disease. Because of the clinical trials we’ve conducted here, our Western New York patients have been among the first in the world to benefit from these new drugs.”
Borowitz stressed that the new grant will allow these kinds of life-changing treatments to get closer to reality for the entire spectrum of chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, sickle cell disease, stroke and vascular research, critical illnesses among new born babies, Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders, among many others.
“There has to be a mechanism to move drugs out of the lab and into the patients who need them,” she said. “When you study a drug for a disease, the only people who can ultimately move the drug forward are the people who have that disease.”
The easiest way for individuals to start participating in clinical trials at UB and its partners now is to sign up online at www.researchmatch.org.
“With this new grant, Western New Yorkers can look forward to even more opportunities to help with, and benefit from, clinical research in the near future,” Borowitz said.
Also critical to the grant’s success is the training of clinical researchers, an effort being led by Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for inclusion and cultural enhancement at the UB medical school. She is principal investigator on the grant’s Mentored Career Development Program, which is designed to train researchers throughout all the health sciences disciplines, including medicine, pharmacy, dental medicine, nursing and public health. Dubocovich also leads a prestigious NIH graduate training program for traditionally underrepresented students at UB.
Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is beginning a new chapter in its history with the largest medical education building under construction in the nation. The eight-story, 628,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in 2017. The new location puts superior medical education, clinical care and pioneering research in close proximity, anchoring Buffalo’s evolving comprehensive academic health center in a vibrant downtown setting. These new facilities will better enable the school to advance health and wellness across the life span for the people of New York and the world through research, clinical care and the education of tomorrow’s leaders in health care and biomedical sciences. The school’s faculty and residents provide care for the community’s diverse populations through strong clinical partnerships and the school’s practice plan, UBMD.