Columbia researchers receive $61.7 million grant to speed up the development of new treatments

A five-year, $61.7 million grant to the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons will help medical researchers speed the application of scientific discoveries, so that new treatments can be delivered to patients faster.

The grant, awarded by the National Institutes of Health, is one of the largest ever to the medical school. It will support the work of the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, led by Muredach Reilly, MBBCh, MSCE, professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical and translational research. The Institute works in partnership with researchers and clinicians across Columbia University Irving Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute to support all phases of clinical and translational science.

The infusion of federal funding addresses a critical need in medical research. In labs at Columbia and at other universities across the nation, important scientific discoveries are made almost every day. But it typically takes a decade or more for a new scientific discovery to result in a new drug, medical device, or diagnostic tool. In 2006 the NIH launched a nationwide effort to identify and overcome scientific and organizational barriers that slow the movement of discoveries from the lab bench to the patient. The program, called the Clinical and Translational Science Award Program, today funds translational research "hubs" at more than 50 universities.

The funding has enabled the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research to establish more than 70 services and programs to help Columbia researchers translate medical discoveries into treatments, including:

  • Training, mentoring, and one-on-one consultation to researchers. The Irving Institute trained over 2,200 individuals and provided more than 3,300 consultations to researchers since 2016.
  • Access to research facilities, infrastructure, and specialized equipment that may not be available in a researcher's own lab or department.
  • Seed funding, including $4 million for pilot projects that enable researchers to generate preliminary data that can be used in applying for larger grants.
  • Assistance in launching clinical trials to test new therapies and diagnostic tools.

The Irving Institute also provided funding for the development of RecruitMe, an online registry for people interested in volunteering for clinical trials led by Columbia researchers. More than 30,000 people have signed up to participate.

The new infusion of funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science at the NIH will enable the Irving Institute to develop new programs, including a Research Navigation System to help match the needs of individual researchers and research teams to resources and services available at Columbia. The Institute will also offer expanded training opportunities and a "data concierge service" that will link researchers with experts in biostatistics, biomedical informatics, and data science. They will also engage community leaders as "ambassadors" to promote research that improves community health.

Columbia University was first awarded a CTSA grant in 2006, and the grant has been renewed every five years since then, with funding totaling over $200 million through 2026. This year's application for funding renewal received a perfect overall score from the NIH's review committee.

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