June 20, 2018

Indiana’s top research institutions receive $33 million to improve health statewide

Indiana CTSI logo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Indiana’s top research universities have been awarded more than $33 million to improve the health of people in the state. The grant is their third five-year Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Indiana is often ranked among the least healthy states in the country, but researchers and staff of Purdue University, Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame have joined together through the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) to change that.

Translational science is the process of turning observation in the laboratory, clinic and community into means that improve the health of individuals and populations.

“It’s about going from the lab bench to the bedside in the most efficient way possible,” said Tommy Sors, who manages Purdue’s partnership in the Indiana CTSI and is assistant director of the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease.

“Translation is really important for Purdue because we don’t have a human clinic or a school of medicine to put our inventions to the test. The relationship with Indiana University’s medical school allows us to translate many of our innovations,” he said. “Purdue is making significant investments in the life sciences and these are yielding phenomenal technological solutions for improving biomedicine and healthcare.  But, if we make a new discovery that allows us to invent new diagnostics and therapies, we need to find places with doctors and patient populations to test those diagnostics and therapies. The Indiana CTSI acts as a conduit for this translation.”

This is the first major statewide partnership to transform the way institutions work together toward discovery and training in improving human health in the state and beyond, said Connie Weaver, the Purdue Principal Investigator of the Indiana CTSI and Deputy Director.

The Indiana CTSI was formed in 2008. Since then, they’ve discovered dangerous lead levels in South Bend and created testing kits to prevent consumption of unsafe water. They’re working toward reducing risk factors for infant mortality in central Indiana by confronting mental health problems and improving nutrition intake for mothers.

Community engagement is another big part of the group’s mission, said Dennis Savaiano, associate director of CTSI’s Community Health Partnerships program.

“The big picture here is to bring together all the partners and communities to collaboratively improve health in Indiana,” he said. “The number of people at the grassroots level thinking about the health of their communities has grown exponentially, whether it’s businesses wanting their employees to be drug and smoke-free or schools wanting children to get enough exercise and eat healthy foods. I think we’re starting to see a real awareness in the state that we can improve health substantially and in doing so, increase the quality of life for Hoosiers.”

One of the group’s main focuses for the next five years is to improve the health inequity that occurs in Indianapolis. Through the Monon Trail project, they hope to help people that live near the bottom of the trail get the healthcare they need.

“People who live at the bottom of the Monon Trail have a life expectancy of 12 or more years less than people who live at the top of the trail,” said Savaiano. “People who live at the top live as long as people who live in Sweden or Norway, and people who live at the bottom live as long as people who live in very poor areas around the world. It has to do with health equity and the ability to get preventative care, be treated for chronic diseases, and get good prenatal care so that infant mortality can become more similar across different racial and ethnic groups. These are issues we hope to improve through the project.”

The CTSI recently launched another initiative called “All IN for Health,” which aims to sign up at least 100,000 Indiana residents to its health research volunteer registry over the next three years. So far, the initiative has recruited more than 6,000 people.

The All IN for Health website provides valuable resources aligned with the major health issues affecting Indiana, such as information for expectant mothers interested in quitting smoking. The website also offers opportunities to become research volunteers and be matched to any of the 1,000 active Indiana-based research studies made possible through Indiana University, Purdue and Notre Dame.

The Indiana CTSI is funded in part by Award Number UL1TR002529 from the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Clinical and Translational Sciences Award. 

Writer: Kayla Zacharias, 765-494-9318, kzachar@purdue.edu  

Sources: Tommy Sors, 765-494-1678, tsors@purdue.edu 

Dennis Savaiano, savaiano@purdue.edu

Connie Weaver, 765-494-8237, weavercm@purdue.edu

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