Translational research is key UNMC thrust

Translational research is a key thrust at UNMC.

That was message UNMC Vice Chancellor for Research Jennifer Larsen, M.D., sent Friday to the Academic Affairs Committee of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

"Many UNMC faculty are already conducting successful translational research," Dr. Larsen said, "but we need to develop the teams to do even more. By bringing together basic science, patient- oriented, and public health researchers we will move discoveries from the laboratory into patient care more rapidly. Collaborating teams of researchers also will be more successful in competing for larger federal grants."

picture disc.To expand translational research, Dr. Larsen said UNMC should focus on its areas of research strength and "grow" those areas into larger translational research teams.

One way to grow these teams is to provide an environment where different types of researchers work side by side with clinicians. UNMC's future plans to bring together all its cancer specialists and researchers into a unified cancer campus will itself help grow translational research, she said.

Dr. Larsen emphasized three individuals with new grants who are leaders in their field and exemplify areas of translational research.

  • Basic Science - Surinder Batra, Ph.D., professor and chairman, biochemistry and molecular biology, leads a team of four investigators to study pancreas cancer with a $4.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute and will network with other cancer center teams across the country;
  • Clinical - B. Timothy Baxter, M.D., professor, surgery, identified a potential non-invasive treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm in the laboratory then received a $9.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct this multi-center trial;
  • Public Health - Risto Rautiainen, Ph.D., associate professor, College of Public Health, developed the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health. With agriculture now the most hazardous industry in the nation, he received a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study ways to understand and prevent agricultural injuries as well as provide health and safety education to farmers.

"These individuals are truly national experts in their areas of research," Dr. Larsen said. "Their research will not only benefit the health of Nebraskans, but potentially change how we evaluate and treat these conditions across the country."

UNMC's areas of research excellence

In developing this year’s strategic plan for research, Dr. Larsen said three new areas – alcohol and smoking-related disease, musculoskeletal disease, and rural and other health disparities – have been added to UNMC’s areas of research excellence. The other areas include:
  • Cancer
  • Neuroscience
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Infectious diseases
  • Genetics
  • Drug development and nanomedicine
  • Biotechnology and
  • Transplantation.