July 29, 2005

Progress continues on new plan to strengthen research enterprise

Featured Image

photo by Heather Bryant, Paris Post-Intelligencer

Progress continues on new plan to strengthen research enterprise

Vanderbilt University Medical Center's new Research Enterprise plan to strengthen the discovery enterprise is nearing completion.

The final draft, which incorporates suggestions from hundreds of faculty, students and staff, will be delivered to Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., next month.

“We are making excellent progress on the strategic plan,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research.

“VUMC faculty and staff have taken ownership in the process and have shaped an aggressive, forward-looking plan that builds on our strengths. I am confident this plan will stimulate growth in exciting new discovery areas, and will lead to important breakthroughs in diagnosis and therapy,” Balser said.

The Research Enterprise plan is designed to bolster Vanderbilt's momentum as a leading research institution.

In 2004, for example, the medical center ranked 15th in the country in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up from 24th in 2000. During that four-year period, the Medical Center had the fastest compound average annual growth rate in NIH funds among all medical schools.

The plan focuses on three broad theme areas:

• Personalized medicine — understanding how an individual's molecular and environmental context predicts risk of disease and response to therapy;

• Discovering potential new therapeutics and accelerating their translation to clinical practice; and

• Public health and health care — delivering the best possible health care to diverse populations.

The plan's “consensus message,” derived from input from the Vanderbilt community, is that “investigator-initiated science must remain cutting-edge, highly valued and rewarded by the institution.”

At the same time, investigators will initiate pilot “big science” research initiatives to achieve breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of disease.

Several “must-do” items are emphasized in the plan. Among them:

• Expand our emphasis on the discovery of new biomarkers for tracking disease progression and drug response;

• Expand access to DNA banks and other databases, from the molecular to clinical level;

• Establish consultative “SWAT teams” in a Bioinformatics Resource Center to help faculty use and integrate databases, improve their collaboration with outside investigators and utilize systems biology approaches in their research;

• Broaden the resources of the shared core facilities to include access to nanomaterials and tissue repositories; and

• Expand support of pre- and postdoctoral trainees, who play a fundamental role in the Research Enterprise, in order “to create an atmosphere of personal discovery and empowerment” for them and their families.

For more information about the plan, log on to: https://staging.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vcbh/ds/re_ent/.