OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Center for Neuroscience, an interprofessional organization at the OU Health Sciences Center, has received a $100,000 gift to facilitate translational research in the neurosciences.
The donation comes from the Wisdom Family Foundation and recently retired OU Medicine and VA neurologist Peggy Wisdom, M.D., of Edmond, who continues her involvement in interprofessional activities on campus. The funds will be used to award seed grants to clinicians and scientists who collaborate on a research project.
“OCNS has both clinician and research members, and our role is to facilitate conversations between them,” said Beverley Greenwood-Van Meerveld, Ph.D., director of OCNS and professor of physiology in the College of Medicine. “When we bring them together to discuss common areas of interest, there is greater potential that they will develop a collaboration and work together to treat human disease.”
The concept of translational research is becoming increasingly important to healthcare. Scientists with Ph.D.s don’t always have the opportunity to interact with physicians and patients, nor do clinicians often interact with researchers. But when they begin talking about each person’s contribution to solving medical problems, their combined expertise sharpens their focus on the disease and potentially accelerates the pace toward discovering a new medical therapy.
Identifying common areas of interest is the foundation of such partnerships. OCNS research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases, stress and anxiety disorders, stroke and cerebrovascular disease.
“For example, a researcher and clinician might each have an interest in traumatic brain injury,” said Calin Prodan, M.D., assistant director of clinical research for OCNS and a professor of neurology. “The physician could explain things from a patient standpoint, such as the potential for memory loss, stroke and seizures. The researcher would talk about how those complications could be studied at the cellular or molecular level. The conversation is a constant back and forth between the bench and the bedside.”
The Wisdom Family Foundation gift will be used to provide initial funding for projects that have been identified. Such seed grants are crucial because they allow a team to get a project off the ground. Once they obtain preliminary data, they can leverage those findings to apply for bigger state and national grants.
Proposals for OCNS seed grants are externally reviewed and identifying elements removed so that the process is as fair. In addition, applications are fairly short and no biosketch is required, which benefits junior researchers who have fewer publications and funding on their CVs. Once collaborators have generated data from their projects, they are required to present their findings at a seminar.
Because OCNS has members from all seven colleges at the OU Health Sciences Center, translational projects have the potential to be diverse. In addition to Ph.D./M.D. collaborations, partnerships might include physical therapists, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and others teamed with a basic science researcher.
“The OCNS has consistently encouraged and cultivated interprofessional translational research collaboration among the basic science and clinician researchers at the OU Health Sciences Center,” Wisdom said. “The Wisdom Family Foundation is pleased to initiate an endowment to enhance the ability of OCNS to cultivate more interprofessional collaborations.”