Groundbreaking Effort Toward Medical Discovery Under Way at University Hospitals

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Research enterprise is hitting on all cylinders, placing UH among the top hospitals in the nation for funded projects

UH Clinical Update | June 2022

By Cliff A. Megerian, MD, FACS, Chief Executive Officer; Jane and Henry Meyer Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair

At University Hospitals, our mission - To Heal. To Teach. To Discover – is at the forefront of all we do. We’ve previously spent time here on topics connected to our healing and teaching efforts, but in recent months, our “discover” component has become super-charged.

This was highlighted in the State of UH Research presentation recently made by Dr. Dan Simon, our UH President of Academic & External Affairs and Chief Science Officer and Ernie and Patti Novak Distinguished Chair in Health Care Leadership. Among many topics, he addressed our very strong relationship with the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, as well as our newer relationships with Oxford University in England, as it relates to rare diseases; with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, many of whose residents we train here at UH, and with NEOMED, a public school of medicine in Northeast Ohio that is poised to contribute to our academic mission with the recent announcement of strengthened affiliation.

If you haven’t seen Dan’s presentation, or would like to see it again, click here.

Among the most impressive and exciting news is our attainment of several large new grants. These include:

  • A $48 million grant to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital from the Health Resources and Services Administration to establish a Regional Pediatric Pandemic Network. Dr. Charles G. Macias, Chief, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, and Chief Quality Officer at UH Rainbow, is a co-primary investigator of the grant award - the largest ever in UH Rainbow’s history - and he will lead the new HRSA supported network of five children’s hospitals.
  • An $18.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s P50 program to address how the social determinants of health affect cardiovascular disease, by offering free risk factor screenings and connecting people with resources in the Great Lakes Region. Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, Division Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at UH Cleveland Medical Center, Chief Academic and Scientific Officer of the UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute and Herman K. Hellerstein, MD, Chair in Cardiovascular Research, is the UH-CWRU principal investigator.
  • A $17 million grant in federal funds for the NEO-CURE study, which will follow 900 northeast Ohioans, as part of the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) project focusing on post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC, also known as “long COVID”). Dr. Grace McComsey, UH Vice President of Research and Rainbow Babies & Children's Foundation John Kennell Chair of Excellence in Pediatrics, is the principal investigator for the study, as well as the PI of the Clinical and Translational Science Collaboration (CTSC), the combined clinical research program that includes the CWRU School of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals.

And, as Dr. Simon points out, we are the No. 1 clinical trials site in Ohio on ClinicalTrials.gov, with more than 3,294 open studies in 2021 - despite COVID-19. UH’s clinical trial work has made us the largest player in this arena in Ohio, and among the top in the U.S.

2021 UH Research Stats Source: State of UH Research presentation May 2022

We also have parlayed our research enterprise into the $150 million JobsOhio project, the state's nonprofit economic development corporation that led to the creation of the Cleveland Innovation District, in which University Hospitals is taking a leadership role in guiding the work around research and product innovation. Specifically, UH will be charged with leading efforts on Global Health and Emerging Infections; SmartHealth Product Innovation; and leveraging the success of the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals, part of the Harrington Project for Discovery & Development.

In May, the Harrington Discovery Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary. It was founded with the mission of creating and accelerating new medicines for patients and supporting physician-scientists in changing the standard of care in medicine. The model has expanded to include all scientists addressing a range of unmet clinical needs, with a special focus on brain health, rare diseases, COVID-19 and major diseases affecting society, such as cancer and heart disease.

Over those 10 years, during which 304 institutions applied to the Harrington Discovery Institute for support, greater than 169 physician and PhD scientists were funded, 30 new companies formed, 17 drugs are in clinical trials, and 12 new therapeutics have been licensed to pharmaceutical firms.

And during the peak of COVID-19, you may remember, the Harrington Discovery Institute did an ‘emergency’ RFP to advance COVID-19 cures, which resulted in 250 applications for potential discoveries. We funded five of these and four are in clinical trials right now.

Drug discovery and development is difficult and it takes time, but we are already seeing powerful outcomes.

It was 125 years ago that UH began its journey toward becoming one of the leading academic medical centers in the country. And to be an academic medical center means creating an environment where our staff, by which I mean not only doctors but nurses, social workers – all caregivers - can participate in developing new knowledge that benefits patients and their families.

It’s abundantly clear, based on the growth of the research enterprise at UH, that we are excelling. Looking purely at independent hospitals and not medical schools, we are one of the top 11 NIH research-funded hospitals in the U.S.

But, as Dan puts it, “This is not discovery for discovery’s sake. It’s discovery to make a difference for a patient.”

That is a UH promise.

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