January 21, 2005

New research plan to bring bench, bedside closer together

Featured Image

Italo Biaggioni, M.D., checks in on patient Sonnie Gosnell. VUMC’s new Research Enterprise plan stresses clinical and translational research in addition to basic science.
photo by Dana Johnson

New research plan to bring bench, bedside closer together

Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers and administrators are drafting a new Research Enterprise plan with the goal of making Vanderbilt the world leader in the areas of personalized medicine, therapeutic discovery and translation, and population health care.

The new plan, which will strengthen the basic sciences and facilitate the institution's capacity to bring discoveries to patients, is currently under development.

The plan is scheduled to be reviewed by Medical Center Leadership in July 2005.

The first formal research enterprise strategic plan in 1997 focused on building the infrastructure necessary to facilitate basic research. Under the original plan, VUMC recruited top researchers and research teams, increased and enhanced core facilities, and reorganized and expanded administrative research support services. The increasing levels of extramural research funding — from $153 million in 1999 to the current level of $292 million — reflects the progress made under that plan.

The 1997 plan “has been fully implemented and was successful,” said Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Research, in a presentation at the October Research Enterprise meeting. In that presentation, Balser outlined the concept behind the new strategic plan to members of the Executive Faculty and other members of the Research Enterprise group.

The new plan emphasizes a scaffold for strategically expanding VUMC research in three broad theme areas:

• Personalized Medicine — Individualizing care through understanding how an individual's molecular, economic and social context predicts risk of disease and response to therapy;

• Therapeutic Discovery and Translation — To discover new therapies and therapeutic targets, and accelerate their translation to clinical practice;

• Population Health Care — To understand how best to deliver the highest quality health care to diverse populations.

According to Balser, these priorities are intended to embrace ongoing work in most, if not all, departments and centers in the Medical Center and are inclusive of all diseases, organ systems and techniques.

“These theme areas emphasize our strong commitment to continued expansion of basic science research in our departments and centers, while further developing our translational and clinical research programs,” Balser said.

In addition, Balser presented the following set of values and goals, which will guide the design of the plan within each theme area:

• Encourage and support science of the highest quality and worldwide impact;

• Nurture our unique atmosphere of collegiality and maximize satisfaction of all stakeholders (faculty, staff, students and fellows);

• Expand our infrastructure for human investigation with a view to strengthening our ability to translate the major discoveries of our increasingly strong basic science enterprise into meaningful clinical research activity;

• Diversify the VUMC portfolio of financial support for research, including a strong emphasis on technology transfer;

• Provide high quality administrative systems for the research enterprise that allow the fair and efficient utilization of space and financial resources.

The process for developing the new plan will involve a series of full-day sessions at the Center for Better Health involving leadership and stakeholders within each theme area. In addition, there will be a fourth session to discuss shared core resources necessary to operationalize the priorities set in the three theme sessions.

Following these meetings, which will take place in February and March, the full draft of a plan will be presented in open town hall sessions by Balser and Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, for open feedback and critique. These sessions will include all interested faculty and staff, and their feedback will be used to finalize the plan.

“As much as possible, we hope to engage the entire research enterprise in the design of the plan,” said Andrea Baruchin, Ph.D., director of strategic planning for the Office of Research. “We are trying to build consensus and get as much creative input as possible.”

“This is an exciting plan with well chosen goals and objectives,” Gabbe said. “It builds on and will be developed through a collaborative process that is a unique hallmark of our Medical Center.”

The town hall meetings will be held in 208 Light Hall on Wednesday, May 4, from 3 to 5 p.m. and Tuesday, May 10, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.