Gains in research funds, clinical studies top fall faculty meeting

October 30, 2014

Record highs in federal grant submissions and early phase clinical trials were among the highlights of the dean's presentation at the IU School of Medicine Fall Faculty Meeting on Oct. 27.

The number of successful proposals from researchers at IU School of Medicine to the National Institutes of Health is up 13 percent this fiscal year and the number of both cancer and non-cancer phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials has risen about 25 percent over the past two years, said Jay L. Hess, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the IU School of Medicine and vice president for university clinical affairs at IU.

"The total number of NIH grants awarded over the past 12 months is also up 16.1 percent," he said. "This improves our NIH ranking from 41st to 37th, which is an outstanding achievement and reflects a considerable amount of hard work and dedication on the part of our faculty."

The rise in clinical research is due in part to efforts to make the school more attractive to industry partners through the reduction of internal review board approval times for new contracts and confidentiality agreements. Dr. Hess also encouraged faculty to take advantage of several programs designed to improve the competitiveness of their research and research applications, including: 

  • Project Development Teams -- eight committees of multidisciplinary researchers overseen by the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute to assist investigators in developing ideas into well-designed translational research projects
  • Peer Review Mentorship Committees -- a program from the IUSM Dean's Office focused on assisting research proposals in the neurosciences, cardiovascular diseases and obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndromes
  • Independent Investigator Incubator -- a faculty mentorship program for junior investigators focused on increasing research competitiveness
  • Industry Collaboration Portal -- a project to facilitate collaboration between academic researchers and local industry

Another major focus of the school -- population health -- was highlighted with spotlights for three major projects in this area: the creation of a Management Services Organization at IU Health; the Healthy Aging Brain Center, led by Malaz Boustani, M.D., which now provides treatment to over 2,000 area adults with cognitive impairment, dementia and depression; and the OPTIMISTIC Project, led by Greg Sachs, M.D., which is working to reduce potentially avoidable hospitalization in 19 residential nursing homes across Indianapolis.

Dr. Hess also discussed renovation plans for the former Wishard Hospital site, acquired by IU in a land swap upon the opening of the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital. In addition to the new Regenstrief Building, Dr. Hess cited two major projects in the works: the conversion of the former Regenstrief Building to house the new IU Center for Interprofessional Health Education and Practice and of the adjacent Dunlap Building to contain the new Center for Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery. Final approval on the Dunlap site is anticipated in late December.

The former Regenstrief Building will also contain space for the recently established IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health as well as IU School of Dentistry. The Dunlap site will also provide space for the new Center for Musculoskeletal Research, which will involve the recruitment of new faculty in areas such as cartilage biology, muscle biology and rheumatology. Seven major faculty hires are also planned to provide leadership to the drug discovery program.

Additionally, Dr. Hess pointed to a 40 percent increase in student applications -- with an average GPA of incoming students of 3.74, a record high for the school. He also discussed a planned 300 slot expansion of primary care residencies across the state. On the horizon are the upcoming launch of a new master's program in innovation and implementation science and a new fellowship program in health care administration expected in 2017.

Other presenters were Mary E. Dankoski, Ph.D., executive associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development, and Peter M. Nalin, M.D., executive associate dean for educational affairs. Materials from their presentations are online: 

To access a complete video recording of the meeting, visit the IUSM Mediasite (login required).