NIH education grants lay groundwork for bio sector’s growth

September 4, 2009

By hammersmith

Funding from the National Institutes of Health, recognized as the “gold standard” indicator of strength in the biosciences, most often comes in the form of project-specific research grants. But the NIH funds other kinds of projects, too, and among the most important are its resource grants.

Two such awards recently announced, with Arizona scientists as their principal investigators, will make major contributions to biomedical education and training in the state.

Arizona Science Center: “Pathways” project

With a five-year, $1.2 million R25 grant from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources, the Arizona Science Center will have substantial new resources to strengthen bioscience education for Arizona children and families.

The funded project, entitled “Framing New Pathways to Medical Discoveries for Families, Students, and Teachers,” will include development of hands-on activities and experiments at the Science Center, along with training for teachers and community- and classroom-based outreach programs, all focused around understanding anatomy and physiology, and promoting interest in biomedical research.

“Developed in partnership with the scientific and educational communities, the new programming will offer visitors of all ages and backgrounds a fun and accessible window to understanding how bioscience technology works, and how these types of NIH-funded medical advances are relevant to them and their families,” said Chevy Humphrey, president and CEO of the Science Center.

The “Pathways” project will particularly concentrate on programming for students in grades 2-6, when, researchers say, foundations should be established for later, more complex biological education.

Along with Science Center staff, the project will draw on research expertise from Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, the Biodesign Institute and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona College of Medicine, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“The evidence is clear that people learn a great deal about science and health and get to participate in important scientific activities through museums, camps and classes, their hobbies, and the media,” said Laura Martin, the Science Center’s director of science interpretation, and the grant’s principal investigator. “This is a terrific opportunity to capitalize on our strength as an educational resource.”

Adrienne Scheck, senior staff scientist in neuro-oncology and neurosurgery research at Barrow, will oversee biomedical research content for the Pathways project.

“Biotechnology has become an integral part of forefront medicine, and this program will spark the interest and imagination of the scientists and physicians of tomorrow,” said Dr. Scheck.

American Association for Cancer Research: “Methods” workshop

Daniel Von Hoff, TGen’s physician-in-chief and chief scientific officer at TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare, is broadly acknowledged as one of the world’s experts in clinical-trial design. A five-year, $1.5 million renewal of an R25 training grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will allow Dr. Von Hoff and other experts to continue teaching best practices in oncology clinical-trial development.

The “Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop” grant to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) supports the presentation of a week-long summer workshop that Dr. Von Hoff founded in 1996. Clinicians participating in the intensive workshop learn how to craft trials that meet the standards of the NCI and institutional review boards governing human-subjects research, and how to avoid the kinds of errors in trial design and conduct that can invalidate a study’s findings.

“The only way advances in science can make a difference for patients is through clinical trials,” Dr. Von Hoff said. “Doing these trials correctly is critical for the rapid introduction of new treatments.”

“We owe so much to Dr. Von Hoff for his enormous contribution of time and leadership to achieve this milestone in the 14-year history of this outstanding educational offering,” said Margaret Foti, CEO of the AACR.

The workshop, held each August in Vail, Colo., is co-sponsored by the AACR and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The 75 clinical fellows accepted for the workshop each year pay no registration fees; their transportation to and from the workshop, along with their meals and accommodations, are provided by corporate sponsors. Another 25 clinical scientists who have already begun academic careers are provided registration for the workshop and limited stipends for attendance costs.

For more information:

Arizona Science Center Receives National Attention and $1.2 Million for Bioscience Education,” Arizona Science Center news release, 08/22/2009

‘Methods’ workshop funded for five more years,” TGen news release, 08/31/2009