Science Market Update

Duke School of Medicine Dean Andrews speaks on Commitment to Research

Posted by BCI Staff on Mon, Mar 14, 2011

Dean Andrews at Duke

On February 22, 2011, Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, Nancy Andrews, M.D., Ph.D., gave her State of the School Address.  Part 4 of that speech was devoted to Duke's "Commitment to Research Infrastructure."  The full text of that section of the speech is available in the transcription below, or on the original video

(Photo courtesy of Duke University)



Highlights of Dean Andrew's speech include:

  • Developing and sustaining strong research cores, including new cores for biobanking, induced pluripotential stem cells, viral vector production, and bioinformatic support in the coming year
  • Addressing the shortage of wet lab space
  • Launch of the new Duke Cancer Institute
  • Past successful capture of $215 million from ERA/NIH Stimulus funds
  • Supporting the submission of large collaborative grant applications by establishing a central office, head by Joanna Downer
  • Optimizing pre- and post-award grant administration
  • Announcement of the hiring of John Michnowicz for the post of Executive Director for the Office of Research Administration
  • Announcement that the Contracts Office has been brought under the School of Medicine for improved efficiency
  • Improving operations and clarifying mandates for SBRs (Site-Based Research Units) that support clinical trials
  • Reorganization of the CRSO (Clinical Research Service Organization)

On March 31, Dean Andrews will be presented with the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science when she delivers a guest lecture at Vanderbilt University.  She is Professor of Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke.

Duke is a powerful player in biomedical research.  If you are a laboratory supplier or Duke researcher, come to Biotechnology-Calendar's 12th Annual BioResearch Product Faire™, held this year on April 21st at Duke.  See the Faire flyer.


Full text of Feb 22 speech, Part 4, by Dean Nancy Andrews:

"We need to insure that we have infrastructure to help our research portfolio reach its full potential.  Part of this means developing and sustaining strong research cores, and that’s an area we’ve focused on over the past few years.  We recognize that core services require continuous investment, and we have used ERA indirect funds to update technology and enhance support services needed by scientists and clinical investigators. 

Over the coming year we will create new cores for biobanking and induced pluripotential stem cells.  We’re working on additional cores for viral vector production and bioinformatic support.

In 2010 we provided vouchers for core services on a competitive basis, to make it easier for our faculty to access the technologies and services they need for their work.  This program, I think, was very successful, and we plan to repeat it again this year.

At the beginning of my talk I mentioned that we lag behind our peers in several metrics of success that relate to our shortage of wet lab space.   As you know, three years ago we were planning for a new research building to help alleviate this problem.  Although the current fiscal climate has been too uncertain to move forward on that building, we’ve been actively looking for interim solutions.  Every department in the school has felt this space squeeze, and the launch of the new Duke Cancer Institute (which I’ll return to later) has added to our need.

The federal research funding picture is still unclear, but it’s unlikely there will be much if any growth in federal support in the near future.  To mitigate this, we’re investing in strategies to improve our success rate for the grants we do submit.  We want to do everything possible to enable our faculty to get a larger piece of the existing funding pie. 

As we strategize, we’re using lessons learned from our extraordinarily successful response to the ERA/NIH Stimulus, which brought $215 million to investigators at Duke.

Part of our approach has been to establish an office, led by Joanna Downer, to support the development and submission of large collaborative grant applications.  Joanna was a key contributor to the administrative team that helped us win several of the large grants through ERA, and I believe her support and expertise give us an important competitive edge.  A number of groups have already taken advantage of her new office for PO1, P30, U01, U54, and SPORE grants.   Although it’s too early to formally measure our success, the feedback we’ve received has been very positive.

Another approach has been to optimize both pre-award and post-award research grant administration.  I’m please to say that John Michnowicz is coming to us from Washington University to become our new Executive Director for the office of Research Administration, effective April 4.  It was clear in the search process that John is considered one of the most experienced and respected grants directors at any of the country’s research-intensive medical schools.  He’s known as an excellent and organized manager who is customer service oriented.  And John will be a key driver for our Research Administrative Continuous Improvement Effort, which goes by the name RACIE, as we work with departments and centers to implement new and transformative processes and technologies.

To respond to recurring complaints, we’ve recently brought the Contracts Office, under the direction of Gil Smith, under the School of Medicine.  This will allow us to align contracting for commercially funded clinical research within the overall structure for clinical research oversight in the school. The big win in this administrative realignment should be greater accountability and efficiency of service to the clinical research community.

We know we have more work to do, and under the leadership of Associate Dean Mark Stacey, we’ve been focused on improving operations and clarifying mandates for the site-based research units, or SBRs, that support clinical trials.  We’re also reorganizing the Clinical Research Service Organization, or CRSO, to better serve the current and future needs of our clinical investigators.

We appreciate the feedback that we’ve received from the faculty and the efforts of the many people interested in making this work optimally."  (Watch the video.)

Tags: Duke University, North Carolina, Durham, industry news, Southern Region

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