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NIH Funds Neuroscience and Pediatric Vision Collaborations

Published October 19, 2011

The UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is a key collaborator on $4.3 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support neuroscience and pediatric vision research.

“UB is proud to be partnering with other SUNY institutions in developing interventions against a leading cause of blindness in children and in developing the Clinical Trials Network in neurology.”
Michael E. Cain, MD
Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The campuses involved with the grant are part of SUNY REACH, a collaborative research network of State University of New York academic health centers.

In addition to the medical school, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is conducting research at UB.

Grant to Study Blindness, Accelerate Clinical Trials

The first grant is $3.5 million from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It supports research into retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), one of the leading causes of childhood blindness.

The second grant is $650,000 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It positions SUNY’s academic health centers to participate in the NIH’s Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NEXT) project, which aims to speed up early phase clinical trials on new therapies.

“UB is proud to be partnering with other SUNY institutions in developing interventions against a leading cause of blindness in children and in developing the Clinical Trials Network in neurology,” says Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“This success of the SUNY REACH initiative has proven the power of the SUNY system in biomedical research.”

Determining if Caffeine and Ibuprofin Ward off ROP

The ROP study seeks to define the molecular events that lead to ROP and develop drug strategies to prevent the condition, which affects 50 to 80 percent of preterm babies born weighing less than 3 pounds.

William Jusko, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UB, is a collaborator on the grant. He will administer the complex project, which will involve two preclinical protocols and one clinical protocol.

The preclinical protocols will test the hypothesis that caffeine and ibuprofen in combination can be used to regulate the overgrowth of vessels that lead to ROP in animal models.

Once researchers have completed studies on the safety, efficacy and timing of intervention, they will begin multicenter, randomized clinical testing at UB and seven other sites statewide.

Jacob V. Aranda, MD, Phd, professor and director of neonatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, is principal investigator on the ROP study.

Collaborative Research in Neurological Disorders

Robert N. Sawyer Jr., MD, interim chair of the UB Department of Neurology, is co-principal investigator on the NEXT project.

It will develop the infrastructure to develop and implement research protocols in neurological disorders affecting adults and children while expanding the SUNY Clinical Trials Network.

“The collaboration among SUNY units that this grant helps us achieve makes a significant difference in terms of how much research we can do on neurological diseases and how efficiently we can do it,” says Sawyer.

“We will deliver groups of patients for clinical trials that are much larger than if each individual institution tried to do it on its own. Higher numbers of patients will allow us to rapidly reach more accurate conclusions about the causes and best treatments for a variety of disease states.”

Principal investigator on the NEXT project is Steven R. Levine, MD, professor of neurology and associate dean of clinical research at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

SUNY Chancellor Praises Collaboration

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher calls the grants “an unparalleled example of what collaboration between SUNY’s medical schools and teaching hospitals can accomplish.”

“They reflect the power of SUNY to enhance the quality of life for the residents of New York State and beyond,” she says.

“They also reflect SUNY’s ability to generate new technologies and, ultimately, jobs for New York State.”

Consortium Aims to Lead Biomedical Research

SUNY REACH (Research, Education, Academic Health) strives to make SUNY a leader in biomedical research in areas that significantly affect the health of New Yorkers.

Member campuses of SUNY REACH, each of which contributed $100,000 to fund the consortium, include:

  • University at Buffalo
  • SUNY College of Optometry
  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Stony Brook University
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University

Collectively these campuses generate one-third of SUNY research dollars.