Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 | 10:46 a.m.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded UNLV a $20 million grant to lead universities across seven Mountain West states in conducting clinical research to solve regional health problems.
The five-year grant program will allow UNLV to pool resources from 13 regional universities, including the University of Nevada School of Medicine, to study access to healthcare as well as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular, autoimmune and infectious diseases.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and UNLV announced the federal grant program this morning.
“This is wonderful news for UNLV and the University of Nevada School of Medicine,” Reid said. “They led a collaborative effort to develop a proposal to improve research and medical care across Nevada and parts of the West. I strongly supported this effort and urged the National Institutes of Health to select this grant. These federal grant funds will help Nevada and our universities, research and medical facilities better address some of our most difficult health care challenges.”
Historically, Mountain West states, which cover one-third of the United States and face tremendous healthcare challenges because of rural-urban dynamics, have not had as much success in attracting federal grant funding as elite institutions in other parts of the country. By sharing resources, UNLV hopes the 13 partner institutions will have the collective strength to increase the likelihood of future grant funding.
“This grant will be a game-changer for Nevada and the entire region,” program director Dr. Robert Langer, a physician and epidemiologist at UNLV’s School of Allied Health Sciences and the medical school, said in a statement. “While we’ve been successful in building basic science research, until now we’ve had a tough time building traction for research that can help everyday people. This grant will help us change that.”
UNLV will coordinate the grant through its School of Allied Health Sciences. Each of the member institutions will provide administrative, personnel and infrastructure support.
The partner institutions include UNLV; UNR, through the University of Nevada School of Medicine; University of Alaska, Anchorage; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of Hawaii at Manoa; Boise State University,; Idaho State University; University of Idaho; Montana State University; University of Montana; University of New Mexico; New Mexico State University and the University of Wyoming.
Each of these institutions will receive pilot grants of one to two years for clinical health research. The federal funding also will go toward mini-sabbatical and visiting scholar awards to promote greater collaboration between the universities.
"It would do all of us a lot of good to work as a group, pool our expertise and capabilities to address these types of issues in a meaningful way," said UNLV vice provost of academic affairs and life sciences professor Carl Reiber, who proposed the grant. "What we're trying to do with this grant is to stimulate research that will have a direct impact of our community. It's not esoteric in anyway."
In addition, UNLV will host a virtual clinical science center to further promote collaborations between the 13 partner institutions. This online center will supplement annual meetings, which will focus on healthcare themes across the Mountain West region.
UNLV President Neal Smatresk said he hopes the grant will further his vision for UNLV to become a top-tier research institution over the next several years.
“Our region must improve the quality of healthcare available to all Nevadans, and we have an incredible opportunity through this grant to build clinical and related research capacity in Southern Nevada and across the Mountain West,” Smatresk said in a statement. “This program will allow UNLV and our partners to more readily support the rapid growth of medical advancements by teaming up to solve the unique health issues affecting our region.”