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Posted on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

U-M's Taubman Institute awards its first translational research prize

By Amy Biolchini

Administrators at the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute announced Monday the winner of the first $100,000 translational medical research award.

Dr. Harry Dietz of Johns Hopkins University is the recipient of the inaugural Taubman Prize, which was created by the institute to recognize practicing researchers who have done the most to take laboratory discoveries and translate them into clinical applications to help their patients.

Dietz is a cardiologist and genetics researcher, and studies how the body’s connective tissues can be modified with medication. The implications of his research can aid in the treatment of genetic connective tissue disorders.

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Dr. Harry Dietz

Courtesy of the Taubman Institute

Dietz’s work “… embodies what we think medical research should be in this day and age,” said Martin Fischhoff, managing director of the Taubman Institute.

A committee of 10 doctors from across the country reviewed about 30 applications for the Taubman Prize before choosing Dietz.

University of Michigan faculty members are not eligible to apply for the award.

Applicants are now being accepted for next year’s award. The $100,000 prize will be awarded annually, and in part is supported by the $100 million gift A. Alfred Taubman has donated to U-M since 2007.

The award was started in response to the decreasing number of treatments that have won FDA approval recently, though the National Institutes of Health have been spending increasing amounts of money on medical research.

“NIH is very conservative about what they fund,” Fischhoff said. “We’re trying to change the paradigm.”

Translational research applies discoveries found in the lab to studies in humans and also accelerates the adoption of the best practices into a community setting.

Clinical research uses public volunteers to test new treatments and therapies as a part of a required process by the FDA before they can be used as a general practice.

The goal of the Taubman Institute and the Taubman Prize is to provide unrestricted monies to the best researchers in the country that traditional funding sources shy away from, Fischhoff said.

The NIH has increased its spending over the past two decades roughly four-fold, Fischhoff said.

Among the money it doles out funds clinical trial research at U-M’s Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research.

Scientists at the research institute, which is housed in the North Campus Research Complex, will be able to continue their clinical trial work after their $53 million, five-year grant from NIH was just renewed, officials announced Monday.

The institute again won the money though the Clinical and Transitional Science Award. In the five years since the institute garnered its first award, it has supported more than 460 U-M researchers and 250 clinical trials.

The majority of the funding is distributed in funds, pilot grants and scholar stipends directly to researchers.

In addition to the federal grant funding, U-M’s Health System and Medical School provide resources to the institute can offer centralized programs and services.

To aid scientists at the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, an online registry of willing study participants is being created.

Just over 11,000 people have signed to be involved. U-M researches will contact those that have signed up for the registry if they need someone that fits their profile for a study.

More than 420 U-M studies currently need volunteers.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.