Reporting Matt Roush
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DETROIT — Wayne State University will spend another 10 years conducting federally funded research into problem pregnancies under a $165.9 million contract renewal announced Thursday night.
Wayne State said the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Wayne State a second 10-year contract to continue housing the institute’s Perinatology Research Branch.
The contract, awarded through a competitive bidding process, ensures the PRB will continue conducting critical perinatal and maternal-fetal medical research in Detroit through 2023.
“This is terrific news,” said Debbie Dingell, Chair of Wayne State University’s Board of Governors. “A contract of this size gives us the resources to continue conducting groundbreaking research in this critical health area. Our record at the PRB has been extraordinary, and we look forward to more and more research that will help so many people.”
Added Wayne State President Allan Gilmour: “I would like to thank the exceptional people at Wayne State and our partners in the PRB whose daily efforts improve and save the lives of the most vulnerable among us. The renewal of Wayne State’s contract is a testament to the confidence the NIH has in our people and the quality of our university.”
The contract is valued at $165.9 million, and is the university’s largest research contract.
The PRB was created by an act of Congress to address the problem of complications of pregnancy, including the prevention of preterm birth, the diagnosis of congenital anomalies, preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction and other complications of pregnancy. The NIH awarded a first contract to WSU to host and support the operations of the PRB, which ordinarily would be housed in Bethesda, Md. However, the NIH wished to house the PRB at an institution with a high rate of preterm birth and with a population particularly affected by this condition.
Since locating at WSU and the DMC, the PRB has assisted more than 20,000 at-risk mothers, most of them uninsured patients of the DMC.
A 2010 study commissioned by WSU concluded that the cumulative economic impact associated with the PRB during a second 10-year contract will exceed $347 million. New earnings to Michigan residents over the life of a new contract are expected to total $143 million. The PRB employs more than 130 physicians, researchers and staff members, many of them in desirable technology positions.
Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., dean of the Wayne State medical school, said research conducted at the research branch “are changing medicine and saving lives around the world. Premature birth and its attending lifelong health problems in Michigan are so severe that Gov. Rick Snyder has made it, along with obesity, one of his administration’s two top health priorities. Remaining the home of the Perinatology Research Branch ensures that Wayne State University continues to be on the front lines of the battle against preterm birth.”
The PRB has been housed at the Wayne State School of Medicine and its health care partner, the Detroit Medical Center, in Hutzel Women’s Hospital, since 2002. Many of the researchers working at the PRB are WSU School of Medicine faculty. The PRB offices, labs and clinical facilities are located within DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital. Other PRB researchers are housed in the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development on the School of Medicine campus.
The Perinatology Research Branch conducts clinical and basic research in perinatal medicine and related disciplines with the goal of developing novel diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes, infant mortality and disability, as well as providing research training for physicians, scientists and other health care professionals whose aim is to improve the health care of mothers and their children.
Roberto Romero, M.D., a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist with international stature, has been the chief of the branch since its creation in 1992. Scientific productivity, creativity and innovation have made the PRB a magnet for worldwide talent.
The project site managers for the contract are the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Robert Sokol, M.D., the John M. Malone Jr., M.D., Endowed chair and director of the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development, and Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate dean for Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health.