The National Institutes of Health awards UNC-Chapel Hill a five-year grant for programs and technology worth $54.6 million that targets the improvement of healthcare across North Carolina.

Also on Tuesday, Duke University’s Translational Medicine Institute landed a five-year grant of more than $47 million.

RTI International and N.C. A&T will share in the contract as partners with UNC.

The three strategic goals of the UNC program include:

1. Next-generation technologies to transform the nature of clinical research and practice
2. Robust comparative effectiveness studies to provide definitive evidence of the benefits and or harms of tests and treatments
3. New paradigms and resources to accelerate drug development

The funding is being provided by the National Institutes of Health under what is called a “Clinical and Translational Science Award: or CTSA.

The goal of the program, which dates to 2006, is to speed up the commercialization of discoveries and technology developed at universities. UNC launched a CTSA program in 2008.

“At UNC, research is much more than an ivory tower exercise,” said UNC-CH Vice Chancellor for Research Barbara Entwisle in announcing the contract on Tuesday. “As a state university, we have a special obligation to serve North Carolina. This award supports our mission by moving discoveries into practice, helping to spin out new life science businesses, and funding hands-on projects to improve the health of our citizens.”

UNC founded the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute with its original funding. According to the university, efforts to translate research and discovery into health benefits have reached each of the state’s 100 counties.

RTI is joining the UNC program as a research partner. A&T is a planning partner and will offer access to its growing nanotechnology programs. 

“We have a large and diverse portfolio of health research, spanning the continuum of clinical and translational science,” said Wayne Holden, chief executive officer of RTI, in a statement. “This grant provides us a significant opportunity to broaden our cross-institutional partnership with UNC and turn our research into practice to improve the health of North Carolinians. Few topics are more important than advancing health and well-being.”

UNC researchers also will gain access to A&T’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering laboratories.

“Together, we will develop a robust pipeline of minority clinical and translational research scientists in a manner that can be a model for the nation,” said Barry L. Burks, N.C. A&T’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.

Duke’s Grant

Duke, which received its first CTSA funding in 2006, said it will focus on continued “biomedical research, including biostatistical and regulatory expertise, technical support, biobank access, startup capital and other essentials.”

“Duke’s successful renewal of the CTSA means that now we can provide more resources for our scientists and clinicians as they work to translate laboratory discoveries into innovative treatments,” said Nancy C. Andrews, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine. “Federal funding is absolutely essential if we are going to improve how we care for patients in our country, so I am particularly pleased to see this level of funding from the NIH to support research.”