Partners in Research
From left to right: Bette Kramer, Dr. Robert Clarke, Joan Hayman, Koula Papadopoulos, Nancy Katz, Carol Winer, and Melinda Keppler.
Not pictured: Caroline Alexander
Georgetown University Medical Center is home to a robust, disease-focused research enterprise that spans multiple disciplines and promotes lifesaving research. The Partners in Research program has been created to allow donors to join forces with the researchers who conduct this high-level research.
GUMC ranks consistently in the top 50 academic health centers in the United States. Research at GUMC is noted for its strengths in:
- Breast and gastrointestinal cancers
- Translational research
- Health disparities
- Global health
Under the direction of Dean Robert Clarke, Ph.D., D.Sc., the biomedical research enterprise comprises more than 400 scientists who are working on basic and clinical research projects in 20 centers, institutes and core facilities. $140 million of external funding helps to support basic research in addition to over 300 clinical trials currently underway. Georgetown researchers collaborate with clinicians at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and other hospitals owned by the Medical Center’s clinical partner, MedStar Health.
GUMC researchers have been responsible for numerous groundbreaking discoveries, including:
- the creation of Allegra, the popular antihistamine drug
- the co-development of Gardasil, the first vaccine for cervical cancer
- the country’s first clinical trial using gene therapy to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease
- the invention of the whole-body tomography scanner (CAT scan)
- the development of the first artificial heart valve
Need for Research
“Promising discoveries in illnesses like depression and Parkinson’s that once would have led to clinical trials are instead going unexplored because companies have neither the will nor the resources to undertake the effort.”
– Gardiner Harris, New York Times, January 22, 2011
With the government cutting back federal funding, the environment for researchers is becoming increasingly competitive. Each time a researcher applies for a federal grant, he or she has a 15% chance of being funded. Due to continuing federal cutbacks, the already slim chance of receiving funding continues to decrease.
Funding from private organizations and individual donors is critical to the medical research enterprise particularly in three main areas:
- Seed funds to support new projects to the point at which they qualify for submission to a major funding agency.
- Bridge funds to ensure scientists are able to pursue current research projects and pilot studies between grants.
- Start-up funds to provide support for newly appointed researchers.
Partners in Research was created to help fund Georgetown biomedical researchers. Support grants starting at $25,000 can make a significant difference. In 2011, three research grants, totaling $75,000, were awarded as decided upon by the Partners. The grantees are studying Alzheimer’s Disease, Macular Degeneration and Hypertension.
Partners in Research is a pooled fund which puts Partners on the “inside” of biomedical research. A minimum donation of $1,000 is required to become a Partner. Contributions for the 2012 grant year are now being accepted
The Partners in Research grants are awarded on an annual basis, with the total collected funds awarded each year. Biomedical research request for funding proposals are submitted by Georgetown researchers to the Dean for Research. A committee of researchers prioritizes the requests according to NIH guidelines and the top five are presented to the Partners for their consideration at the Fall meeting. At the end of the meeting, each Partner prioritizes their choices and the results are tabulated, the grantees are announced.
In addition to determining which projects are funded, Partners receive a written update on the progress of the funded projects, are invited to visit the laboratories of the grantees, and attend the showcase meeting at which the final research findings are presented. (Contributors below the Partner level receive the briefing and are invited to the showcase meeting.)
"The importance of seed funding cannot be overestimated. It provides the necessary resources to invest in 'high risk, high reward' projects
with the potential to generate new insights into a biological question or disease process that may fundamentally change the way we think about approaches to treatments."
– Robert Clarke, Ph.D., D.Sc, Dean for Research, GUMC