UC San Diego is receiving $52 million from the National Institutes of Health to accelerate efforts to turn scientific discoveries into new drugs and therapies, stoking La Jolla’s rapid rise as a world-class center for translational medicine. In less than two years, local scientists have received more than $525 million in big grants and donations to find more effective ways to treat everything from cancer and dementia to diabetes and autoimmune disorders.
The new NIH grant is among the largest in UC San Diego history and comes five years after the agency gave the campus $37.2 million to launch its bid to move discoveries from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside.The new award will underwrite a variety of research and training programs at the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, a $269 million center that’s under construction at the university’s health sciences campus in La Jolla.
Some of the medications and products developed there will be tested at the Jacobs Medical Center, an $859 million complex that’s being built about 100 yards away. The Altman and Jacobs structures are part of a $2 billion building campaign that’s transforming health care at UC San Diego.
“The goal is to identify new therapies that can move through the drug development pipeline much faster,” said Dr. Gary Firestein, the university’s associate vice chancellor of translational medicine. “Right now, it takes years and billions of dollars to create every new drug. We hope to streamline the process,” he added. “The Clinical and Translational Research Institute will be the epicenter of this activity.”
The Altman building will house about 1,000 workers, including recently recruited star faculty members such as Alan Saltiel, a diabetes researcher who came from the University of Michigan.
There’s also a boom under way at the nearby Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, which has received two mega-gifts for translational medicine since late 2013. The first, for $275 million, came from an anonymous donor. That was followed in June by a $100 million donation from San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys.
The translational medicine movement has been spearheaded by the NIH, which strongly influences the direction of science. The agency is the country’s largest public underwriter of biomedical research. Scientists also have been pressured to do more “bench-to-bedside” work by others with deep pockets, ranging from Congress to the American Heart Association to local philanthropists such as Prebys, Denny Sanford and Ernest Rady.
“We’re hearing that we need to have an impact on human health, not just generate knowledge,” said Adam Engler, a bioengineer at UC San Diego.
(Click here to read the full article, written by Gary Robbins, SD Union Tribune)