Medical research in Georgia to expand with $73.7 million in funding

“The mantra of this has always been more treatment to more people more quickly.”

A consortium of Georgia academic institutions will receive more than $73.7 million to expand clinical trials and medical research to improve healthcare access, with a goal of greater equity for diverse populations.

The National Institutes of Health awarded $58.6 million to the Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance with an additional $15.1 million added from participating colleges and universities. Both are over a five-year period.

Members of the Georgia CTSA are Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, along with partners that include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Dr. W. Robert Taylor, the principal investigator at Emory University, said the funds give critical support for the alliance’s efforts to improve the health of Georgians. It’s the largest grant since the alliance was formed in 2007.

“The major theme of our alliance has really focused on healthcare disparities,” which Taylor said are “pretty dramatic in Georgia,” whether the result of socio-economic factors, race or geography. To address those disparities and other health outcomes, the alliance looks at issues such as research, participation in clinical trials, statistical support, community outreach, training for faculty and students and workforce diversity.

One example of the alliance’s work was a grant writing session for community-based organizations to help them apply for funds for local projects and initiatives that support work around maternal mortality and addressing COVID vaccines.

“The mantra of this has always been more treatment to more people more quickly,” Taylor said. “What it means is you don’t want a situation where we develop some new treatment or ... some new technique and it’s only available at Piedmont (Healthcare) or Emory (Healthcare). The focus is to move this into the community and work with community agencies and providers.”

There are roughly 60 such hubs across the nation, but the alliance is the only one in Georgia.

In its the first four funding cycles, the Georgia CTSA has awarded 472 pilot grants, contributed to more than 4,000 scientific publications, and assisted over 2,500 investigators, according to the release announcing the grant.

Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, a professor of medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine and the school’s principal investigator, said the money allows the “alliance to prioritize the health outcomes of these underserved communities, especially African Americans.”

Morehouse School of Medicine in particular has done extensive work in building community engagement among underserved communities and around the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity.

The University of Georgia has a reach that extends throughout the state through its extension services.

“This funding award is just the latest recognition of the importance and cutting-edge position of the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a press release.