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URMC & NIH Partner to Expand, Accelerate Clinical Research in Neurological Diseases

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are hosting a week-long training session designed to create a new generation of researchers with the specialized skills necessary to conduct clinical trials in neurological disorders.

The session, which is titled the “Clinical Trial Methods Course in Neurology,” is part of a push on the part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to beef up the nation’s translational research capabilities by increasing the ranks of clinical researchers and focusing more resources on clinical research skills, technologies, and systems that will accelerate medical discoveries.

“Neurological disorders are a critical area of need in terms of expanding our ability to design and conduct trials that have maximum efficiency at the lowest possible cost,” said URMC neurologist Bernard Ravina, M.D., the director of the course. “Participants in this course consist of a select group of individuals who are committed to being clinical researchers and conducting clinical trials and will benefit from hands-on training that they really cannot get anywhere else.”

Because many neurological disorders are linked with age, the prevalence of these diseases is projected to increase precipitously in the coming years, hence the NIH’s determination to grow research capacity in this area. For example, the number of people with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. will grow by an estimated 70% by 2030 and the number Parkinson’s cases are projected to double during that same period.

The week-long course will consist of intensive training for fellows and early-stage faculty which will both introduce investigators to the fundamentals of effective clinical trial design and conduct. At the end of the week, each participant will have essentially created a protocol for a new clinical trial.

The sessions will take place August 17 to 24 in Vail, Colorado. The training and expenses of participants are being underwritten by the NIH with additional support from Teva Neuroscience, Allergen, CHDI Foundation, Knopp Neuroscience, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Acadia Pharmaceuticals, UCB, and the Parkinson’s Alliance. Sessions will be conducted by faculty and researchers from several institutions including URMC, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, University of Michigan, NIH, and pharmaceutical/biotech companies. The NIH has committed to four sessions over the next four years which, when completed, will result in 160 new, trained clinical researchers in the field.

The course taps into URMC’s experience and leadership in the field of neurological research. The Medical Center is among the top five in the nation in neurological research funding from the NIH and the Neurology Department’s Clinical Trials Coordination Center (CTCC) is the hub of some of the world's largest network for clinical trials of new treatments for neurological conditions. The CTCC consists of approximately 70 staff members and supports a full array of essential clinical trial services for industry, foundations, and government sponsors. URMC physicians have designed and headed some of the largest clinical trials ever in the treatment of several neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. The University is also home to several neurological research programs including an NIH-designated center for rare neurological disorders and a muscular dystrophy cooperative research center that is funded by both NIH and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

For more information on the course, visit

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Mark Michaud

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