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Awards celebrate clinical research that can improve health and alleviate suffering

WASHINGTON Ten outstanding clinical research projects from institutions around the country have been selected to receive the inaugural Clinical Research Forum Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards. The winning projects are compelling examples of the scientific innovation that results from the nation's investment in clinical research that can benefit human health and welfare.

Awardees hail from Baylor College of Medicine, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, Duke University, Seattle Children's Research Institute/the University of Washington, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard.

"There's never been a moment that's more optimistic in the history of biology for spectacular breakthroughs to happen, but it will require strategic investment at a most difficult time in our history," said William F. Crowley Jr., M.D., founder and past chairman of the Clinical Research Forum and director of the Clinical Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. "But that is what has made America the world leader in biomedical research, and if we're going to retain that we have to continue making these investments."

All published within the last two years, the studies are the latest in a long tradition of notable health advances such as eliminating polio and improving cancer survival rates that were propelled by combined investment in basic science and clinical research. Collectively, the work was funded by a range of federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as many foundations and corporations.

"Clinical research is key to our efforts to turn discoveries into health, serving as the bridge between advances in basic scientific understanding and the development of new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "NIH is a major supporter of clinical research and I am delighted to see this important field get the recognition it so richly deserves."

The projects, which tackled difficult health problems and required extensive collaboration, are remarkable for their bold approaches, innovation and potential for alleviating human suffering. In the area of disease prevention, the winning research has made an impact through prevention of complications after bone marrow transplantation, stroke and potentially fatal bacterial infection of implanted medical devices. New therapies were developed for cystic fibrosis, a chronic form of leukemia and a rare lung condition. And new methods were derived for identifying immune system targets of anti-HIV therapies, reducing HIV transmission through early treatment and identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The top prize was awarded for findings that early treatment with medications can prevent HIV transmission. This provides solid support for global public health policies on HIV and could help save millions of lives. The work was honored with the Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award, named for the former president and chief executive officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, a physician who is regarded as a champion and visionary in clinical research.

"The tripartite mission of excellence in research, medical education and patient care unites all scientists in academic medical settings in their pursuit of clinical research that will expand the boundaries of medicine, increase the ability to diagnose, treat and prevent disease, and offer patients and their families hope for the future," Pardes said. "I am delighted to be able to advance this vitally important mission and support clinical researchers as they pursue game-changing medical breakthroughs."

Two distinguished clinical research achievement awards went to efforts to prevent complications after bone marrow transplants by temporarily disabling the body's defense mechanisms, and to a novel method for killing leukemic cells in patients who have exhausted all other treatment options. This work and all the others help inform future medical practice, open new lines of attack against disease and reduce the burden of sickness and premature death.

The studies were published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Winning researchers were honored April 18 during the Clinical Research Forum annual meeting and awards dinner in Washington, D.C., where they also presented their work.


Contact: Cherri McGrew
Clinical Research Forum

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