December 17, 2004

CRC’s funding from NIH running strong

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Thomas Cook, Ph.D.

CRC’s funding from NIH running strong

Vanderbilt's General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) continues to rank among the best in the nation, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). While many GCRCs have struggled under new judging criteria enforced by the NIH, Vanderbilt's Center scored in the top 10 percent in research productivity.

“Under the new metric, which determines funding, many GCRCs have found their funding cut and some have even been closed,” said David Robertson, M.D., director of the GCRC. “On the other hand, we're doing as well as we could possibly be doing.”

In the past, the NIH ranked centers based on the number of inpatient and outpatient visits, as well as a site visit that reviewed seven projects. The new metric considers the GCRC's publication activity in highly cited medical journals.

“It just makes sense. You wouldn't judge a biochemistry lab based on how full the rat cages are, but by the quality of research the lab is doing,” Robertson said. “It's not a novel approach for other programs, but it's new to GCRCs, and it puts the focus on the quality of the research, along with the quantity.”

Vanderbilt's GCRC consistently ranked high in the former system of measurement as well.

“The GCRC is the largest NIH grant at Vanderbilt University,” said Lynda Lane, R.N., administrative director for the GCRC. “Unlike many other centers, Vanderbilt's unit has always had a large number of projects representing many different disciplines.”

The Center ranked second in overall size and activity level at the time of the last renewal, with 176 projects and 227 investigators. The number of active projects has since grown to 279.

“The key to the continuing success of Vanderbilt's GCRC is outreach to new users,” Robertson said. “We give special priority to new users and are especially eager to support pilot studies which may provide preliminary data that will form the basis for later R01s.”

The primary objective of the Vanderbilt General Clinical Research Center is to provide space, hospitalization cost, laboratories, equipment and supplies for clinical research by any qualified member of the faculty in any department of the Medical School. The Center provides biostatistical support, informatics support, bionutrition support, research subject advocates, core lab support, as well as weekly research education sessions.

“Vanderbilt GCRC is flourishing under the new metric because quality has always been important to us,” Robertson said. “It fits in Vanderbilt's adage that we have to be excellent in all we do. This is the environment in which the GCRC has worked, and this is why we're able to maintain our status among other GCRCs.”