UI Joins Mountain West Regional Health Research Network

Wednesday, September 18 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho is joining 12 other Mountain West universities to strengthen the region’s health research capability through a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

UI will collaborate with institutions in seven states on the five-year, $20.3 million project led by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). 

The grant creates a Clinical Translational Research Infrastructure Network to address regional health concerns, including access to care, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular and infectious diseases, by expanding partner institutions’ capacity to put clinical research into practice.

UI’s portion of the grant supports the work of Michelle Wiest, an assistant professor of statistical sciences. She specializes in epidemiology, the study of the patterns and effects of diseases within populations, and biostatistics, which applies statistical science to biological studies.

Through the grant, Wiest will help biomedical and health researchers at UI refine their research questions, design effective studies and analyze their data.

“From beginning to end, it’s a vital part of the entire research process,” Wiest said. “There’s a good recognition of the role of a biostatistician or epidemiologist in clinical and translational studies, so this is really providing a key aspect of the research process to help build up that capacity at the University of Idaho.”

Wiest has been with the university since 2008 and spent the past year at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, conducting research in the institute’s clinical epidemiology and biostatistics unit.

“This grant enhances the University of Idaho’s ability to conduct translational research that directly aids the people of our region,” said Jack McIver, UI vice president for research and economic development. “With Wiest’s statistical expertise, our researchers will hone in on vital questions that will aid in moving research results from the laboratory to the bedside.”

Partner institutions will share resources and expertise to centralize services for researchers. This will improve research capacity at the institutional level and increase the likelihood for future independent National Institutes of Health-funded research studies. 

Researchers at the institutions are eligible for $75,000 pilot grants to establish new clinical or translational health research programs. The grant also will fund an annual meeting to discuss regional health issues, a virtual clinical translational science center hosted at UNLV and other resources.

Dr. Robert D. Langer, a physician and epidemiologist who holds faculty appointments at UNLV’s School of Allied Health Sciences and the University of Nevada School of Medicine, said the grant will be a game-changer for the region.

“We will now have the means to address the unique health needs of people in the Mountain West, which covers one-third of the U.S. and faces tremendous healthcare delivery challenges,” said Langer. “While we’ve been successful in building basic science research, until now we’ve had a tough time building traction for research that can help everyday people. This grant will help us change that.”
Grant funding comes from the NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program. IDeA grants are intended to enhance the caliber of scientific faculty at research institutions in historically underfunded IDeA-eligible states, thereby attracting more promising faculty and students. 

The Clinical Translational Research Infrastructure Network will further this goal among the 13 partnering universities: The University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Nevada, Reno (through the University of Nevada School of Medicine); University of Alaska, Anchorage; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of Hawaii at Manoa; Boise State University; Idaho State University; University of Idaho; Montana State University; University of Montana; University of New Mexico; New Mexico State University; and the University of Wyoming.
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Media Contact: Tara Roberts, University Communications, (208) 885-7725, troberts@uidaho.edu

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.