October 27, 2011

Vanderbilt joins NeuroNEXT research network

Vanderbilt joins NeuroNEXT research network

Beth Malow, M.D., MS

Beth Malow, M.D., MS

The program, established by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), aims to improve treatment of a host of disorders in children and adults, including stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism and rarer autonomic disorders.

The network of 25 academic medical centers will be able to enroll more patients in larger clinical trials and complete them more rapidly than each center could by itself, explained Beth Malow, M.D., MS, Vanderbilt professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, and Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development.

Malow is principal investigator of a seven-year, $1.4 million grant Vanderbilt received last month from NINDS to participate in the Network of Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials or “NeuroNEXT.” She also is director of Clinical Research and of the Sleep Disorders Division in the Department of Neurology.

The grant will enable Vanderbilt to draw on the expertise of clinicians and scientists from a wide range of disciplines, while educating “the next generation of investigators in transformative neurological clinical trial design,” Malow said.

“The NeuroNEXT grant is a terrific opportunity for the Vanderbilt neuroscientific community,” said Robert Macdonald, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Neurology. “It positions our investigators to be leaders in translational research in the clinical neurosciences.”

Key co-investigators at Vanderbilt include Michael DeBaun, M.D., MPH, an expert on silent cerebral infarcts (strokes) in children with sickle cell disease, and David Charles, M.D., who has helped pioneer deep brain stimulation for the treatment of early stage Parkinson’s disease.

DeBaun is professor and vice chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Pediatrics, and J.C. Peterson, M.D., Chair in Pediatric Pulmonology. Charles is associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Neurology, and chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Clinical Neurosciences Institute. Karen Adkins, RN, Research Nurse Specialist IV, will serve as clinical trials coordinator.

Other key collaborators include Russell Poland, Ph.D., vice president for Research at Meharry Medical College, and Uma Rao, M.D., director of the Meharry Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience. Rao has joint faculty appointments in Psychiatry at Meharry and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt’s participation in NeuroNEXT reflects the strength of its research enterprise, including the Clinical Research Center, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, and the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), which administers Vanderbilt’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA)

VICTR director Gordon Bernard, M.D., said VICTR was integrally involved through studios and other support in helping Malow develop the grant application. Studios are structured guidance sessions with experienced faculty members that assist researchers with their studies, publications and grant applications.

“The success in obtaining this major program for Vanderbilt is a testament to Dr. Malow’s skill and reputation, combined with strategic assistance from VICTR,” said Bernard, the Melinda Owen Bass Professor of Medicine and associate vice chancellor for Research.

As the coordinating center for the nation’s 60 CTSAs, Vanderbilt also is working with NINDS to develop a plan for a central Institutional Review Board (IRB) for NeuroNEXT. Ordinarily, each institution must obtain approval from its own IRB to participate in nationwide clinical trials. A central IRB will streamline that process, he added.