$15 Million NIH Grant Fuels OHSU Clinical Research

11/17/99    Portland, Ore.

When a scientist makes a breakthrough discovery about the way nerve cells affect people with Parkinson's disease, it might take years to apply for the appropriate funding to test a treatment on patients. A quicker route is to take those findings to a clinical research center for immediate testing.

The National Institutes of Health have awarded Oregon Health Sciences University's Clinical Research Center a $15 million, five-year grant to further support clinical research in Oregon.

The CRC at OHSU is one of 75 clinical research centers nationally that receive NIH funding. The center acts as a core program for local researchers to expand the studies they are already doing under federal grants. A research institution with such a center can improve its recruitment for top scientists because granted researchers know they can get more bang for their research buck with these extra resources at hand.

"Many times researchers have a grant to specifically study x, y and z, but in the course of their work, they find that x is totally wrong, or y has a completely different slant to it," said Eric S. Orwoll, M.D., director of the center. "By having these core resources available at the CRC, they can expand their scope of study without having to go back and apply for more grants."

The center provides inpatient and outpatient facilities, nursing personnel, laboratory testing and expertise in areas like biostatistics, data management and nutrition.

Since taking over directorship of the center last fall, Orwoll has focused on giving the CRC greater exposure in the local medical community to attract young researchers who may need help getting grants. The center is available to NIH-funded researchers, and those who have a research idea they would like to develop, whether or not they work at OHSU.

"Basically, investigators can come to us saying, `This is the project I want to do,' and we can help support them in getting that done," Orwoll says.

As its name implies, the CRC is a clinical, as opposed to basic research facility, so it deals with research applied to actual patients. However, the center also plays an important role as a bridge between the two forms of research.

"The ideal investigator at a clinical research facility is someone who knows both sides of that fence and can take a new chemical, for instance, and make a drug out of it, or sees a disease in a patient and can go to the laboratory to better understand it," said Orwoll.

CRC studies now under way include those investigating cancer, sleep disorders, Parkinson's disease, biological rhythms, osteoporosis, sex hormones and thinking ability, lipid metabolism, genetic disorders and heart disease.

Helping Orwoll manage the center's resources are assistant program directors Mary Samuels, M.D., a six-year veteran of the research center, and Colin Jordan, M.D., who heads OHSU's infectious disease program. Together, the three are looking to recruit more researchers to make the CRC one of the better utilized centers in the nation.