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UAMS Awarded $31.7M in Grants for Research, Training and ‘Critical Resources’

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UAMS announced Wednesday at a press conference that the UAMS Translational Research Institute has been awarded the Clinical and Translational Sciences award (CTSA), three federal grants totaling $31.7 million.

The funding comes from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCAT) at the National Institutes of Health, and UAMS is one of about 60 research institutions nationwide to receive the award.

The primary grant totals more than $26.9 million over seven years. The grant renews funding awarded in 2019, but the latest award is for seven years instead of five. Dr. Laura James, director of the UAMS Translational Research Institute and associate vice chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research, is the grant’s principal investigator.

The two linked grants total over $4.73 million over a five-year span and will be used for training early career researchers. The K12 Mentored Research Career Development Scholar Award Program grant will fund $3.78 million over five years to promising early-career faculty researchers for two years of translational science training, salary support and strong mentoring support to jumpstart their research careers. 

The T32 Health Sciences Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Program grant will fund $952,975 over five years for a program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to postdoctoral students, a tool James said is useful for when developing medical products or new ways to prevent diseases. The program is hosted through a partnership with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville’s Walton College of Business.

James said the awards provide funds for essential infrastructure for UAMS to meet many of the research goals of Vision 2029, a 10-year strategic plan announced in 2019 for UAMS to lead Arkansas toward becoming healthiest state in the region through education, clinical care and research. 

James said UAMS will continue to work closely with the VA hospital and Arkansas Children’s Hospital, as many UAMS faculty members are based at the centers. UAMS wants to make sure the resources that come to them are broadly shared with their sister campuses. 

The grant from the NCAT will fund various studies and programs. As James noted, one of the programs set to receive funding will involve integrating community health workers from across the state into UAMS’ research teams. Their involvement is expected to help the institution be more effective in its work.

Additionally, the funding will support new efforts in artificial intelligence to develop better and faster ways to diagnose patients and to be “quicker and smarter at what we do as physicians.” 

“It’s happening everywhere. We know it’s going to impact every sector of life,” James said. “We’ve heard bad parts about that, but there’s also going to be really good parts about that.”

Over the past five years, UAMS has used NCAT funds to support 277 clinical trials. Those trials include developments in treatments for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, as well as testing better ways to treat pain, supporting studies of how neurosurgeons can implant devices that help cut down pain and pain signals to patients. 

Since 2020, UAMS has worked with several institutional partners to expand opportunities to participate in trials in different parts of Arkansas and started the Rural Research Network. This partnership involves many other groups at UAMS. It seeks to provide people living in rural regions of the state with the same opportunities to participate in research as anyone in Central Arkansas. 

As UAMS expands participation in the program, James said it is much more likely that UAMS will develop treatments that touch all lives in Arkansas. 

“We very much believe … as we solve problems here in Arkansas, our solutions can be broadly shared.” James said. “We’re excited to continue that work.”

Another program receiving funding is a community engagement team that has been training community members through a program called Community Scientist Academy. The program has a circular dynamic — it teaches participants about research, and then those participants partner with UAMS to help make decisions about how UAMS conducts research and what it chooses to study.

UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said that while the dollar amount will get headlines, the funds will allow UAMS to do the work and research needed to improve health and health care outcomes in the state of Arkansas, paving the way for other rural states across the country to follow in their footsteps.

“This is a meaningful award that will have a direct impact on patient care and outcomes,” Patterson said. “This is an award that will have a direct impact on the economy of central Arkansas and the state of Arkansas, and it will provide us with critical resources that we need to further our mission to improve health and health care outcomes across the state.”

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