December 19, 2013

Year in review 2013: A year of achievements, transition for VUMC

Editor’s note — the following is a roundup of the news that made headlines at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2013.

Strategic repositioning

This year, Vanderbilt University Medical Center proactively embarked on a forward-thinking and necessary mission to reposition the institution to thrive in a fundamentally altered and challenging health care environment.

Faced with restricted federal support of medical education and biomedical research, reduced reimbursement from commercial as well as government payors and the rising cost of providing care, VUMC announced plans this summer to reduce its operating budget substantially. This is being achieved through workflow redesign, performance improvement and adjustments to staffing levels, with an emphasis on integration, collaboration, and by improving efficiency, quality and service to patients.

West Tennessee Healthcare

Leaders with West Tennessee Healthcare (WTH) and VUMC signed an affiliation agreement that will expand the scope of health care services in West Tennessee Healthcare’s service area. The agreement does not change ownership or management of Jackson-Madison County General Hospital or any of West Tennessee Healthcare’s affiliates. The agreement provides the necessary structure for West Tennessee Healthcare and VUMC to collaborate on programs and services and forge new solutions to improve the quality and lower the cost of patient care in the region.

GE Global Research grant

Vanderbilt University partnered with GE Global Research in Niskayuna, N.Y., the technology development arm of the General Electric Co., to better define — at the cellular level — how colon tumors form and develop. The research, supported by a five-year, $3.75 million grant from the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will test GE’s cancer mapping technology, an automated platform that can probe and analyze up to 60 different disease markers, including proteins and messenger RNAs, in a single tissue sample.

Novel obesity therapies

Vanderbilt signed a collaboration agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for the discovery, development and commercialization of novel therapies for severe obesity. The target is the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4-R), which is involved in energy homeostasis, the balance of food intake and energy expenditure, and in the regulation of body weight. Defective melanocortin signaling is the most common cause of severe, early-onset obesity.

VU’s economic impact on state

Vanderbilt University had an $8.6 billion impact on the Tennessee state economy during the most recently completed fiscal year, according to an independent economic analysis released in February. Among the factors measured were Vanderbilt’s direct spending on operations and construction, spending by students and visitors, and spending by businesses as a result of Vanderbilt’s presence in the state.

Breast cancer risk factor

Researchers at Vanderbilt have found a powerful new genetic risk factor for breast cancer.
Using data from population-based studies of women in Shanghai, China, Jirong Long, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, and colleagues discovered a deletion in a cluster of genes, called APOBEC3 genes, that are known to trigger DNA mutation and which have previously been implicated in cancer.

Nutrition, diet core created

A new research core has been established to help Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigators optimize their nutrition- and diet-related study designs, methods, measures, interventions and analysis. The Vanderbilt Nutrition and Diet Assessment Core is available to internal and external investigators who would benefit from expert consultation to inform decision making in clinical, translational and community research.

Arteaga elected president of AACR

Carlos Arteaga, M.D., professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, was elected president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research for 2013-2014. Arteaga, who holds the Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer, also serves as associate director for Clinical Research and director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

Mountain State Health Alliance

The leaders of Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and VUMC signed an affiliation agreement in May that will benefit MSHA, VUMC and the residents of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. As part of the affiliation agreement, VUMC will assist with recruitment of hard-to-find specialists and subspecialists to serve the Northeast Tennessee/Southwest Virginia area.

Grant boosts Ebola research

James Crowe Jr., M.D., and a collaborator in Texas were awarded a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study new ways to treat and prevent Ebola and Marburg viruses. The Marburg and Ebola viruses are greatly feared both for their death rates, which can be upward of 80 percent, and for the dramatic course of their illnesses, which includes bleeding from multiple locations and multi-organ system failure.

Prostate cancer study

David Penson, M.D., MPH, professor of Urologic Surgery, received a $2 million research award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study localized prostate cancer, the second leading cause of death among American men. Over the next three years, Penson will study patient-reported outcomes and compare the effectiveness of treatment of prostate cancer in 3,691 men diagnosed with prostate cancer in five states in 2011.

New academic affiliation

Leaders of West Tennessee Healthcare (WTH) and VUMC announced an academic affiliation agreement which further establishes a collaborative relationship between the two institutions, for the creation of new cancer programs in West Tennessee. The new agreement creates a framework for the future development of cooperative programs between Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), and WTH’s Kirkland Cancer Center, Jackson, Tenn.

School of Medicine honored by AMA

The American Medical Association (AMA) selected Vanderbilt University School of Medicine to receive a $1 million grant as one of the nation’s 11 top medical schools transforming medical education. The grant, part of the AMA initiative Accelerating Change in Medical Education, makes Vanderbilt the recipient of $1 million over the next five years to take part in a consortium created to rapidly disseminate best practices in medical education across the country.

RNA’s colorectal cancer role

Robert Coffey Jr., M.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, received a five-year, $5.2 million grant from the NIH to study the role of extracellular RNA (ex-RNA) in colorectal cancer. Coffey’s is one of 24 grants totaling $17 million awarded to 20 institutions through the collaborative, cross-cutting Extracellular RNA Communication program. The program is supported by the NIH Common Fund and led by a team representing five different NIH institutes and centers.

Cumberland Pediatric Alliance

Cumberland Pediatric Alliance (CPA) joined the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network (VHAN).
Through the new affiliation, CPA physicians will become more closely aligned with VHAN’s pursuit of innovative approaches to outcomes-based care while helping to further expand its footprint in an effort to reach pediatricians in other areas of the state. CPA membership includes 35 pediatric practices with more than 300 pediatricians, all of whom have been invited to join VHAN.

Cone, Heitman honored

Vanderbilt University’s Roger D. Cone, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Heitman, Ph.D., were appointed to the National Academies’ Board on Life Sciences, which advises the government and scientific community on a wide range of topics, from stem cell research to bioterrorism.

VTEU receives renewed NIH funding

The Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program (VVRP) received a contract from the NIH to continue its work as one of the nation’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEU). Vanderbilt is one of nine institutions that have the potential to receive funding up to $135 million per year from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, over a seven-year period.

Broadening graduate, postdoc training

VUMC received a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the NIH to develop “bold and innovative approaches to broaden graduate and postdoctoral training.” Vanderbilt is one of 10 academic medical centers in the country to receive “BEST” (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grants from the NIH’s Common Fund. The goal of the national program is to help train U.S. scientists for today’s more diverse array of employment opportunities.

Tech transfer efforts post gains

Over the past three years, Vanderbilt University more than quadrupled earnings from its technology commercialization efforts — to more than $24.5 million in the 2013 fiscal year that ended June 30. Several major licensing agreements boosted earnings recently, including a license with Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop potential new drugs for Parkinson’s disease, another with AstraZeneca to develop potential new drugs for schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, and one with Parker Hannifin Corp., to commercialize a lightweight, mechanical exoskeleton technology.

Nursing workforce study

Vanderbilt’s Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies was awarded $2.2 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to address nursing workforce issues that may impede future health care. Certain regions in the United States, particularly rural areas, continue to report a shortage of nurses, especially in specialties such as operating room and labor and delivery.

Weiner, Frisse elected to IOM

Betsy Weiner, Ph.D., R.N., senior associate dean for Informatics in the School of Nursing, and Mark Frisse, M.D., MS, MBA, Accenture Professor and director of Regional Informatics, were elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Breast SPORE renewed

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s Breast Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) was awarded a third round of funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The SPORE grant renewal will provide more than $11.3 million in funding support over the next five years for breast cancer research.

EMRs used to spot disease associations

VUMC researchers and co-authors from four other U.S. institutions from the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network repurposed genetic data and electronic medical records to perform the first large-scale phenome-wide association study (PheWAS), published in Nature Biotechnology. Traditional genetic studies start with one phenotype and look at one or many genotypes, PheWAS does the inverse by looking at many diseases for one genetic variant or genotype.