The Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium (SPARC) for Translational Medicine has awarded its first grants, totaling more than $1.9 million, which will be invested to accelerate investigations into autoimmune conditions. Among the five winners is Gwendalyn Randolph, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who was awarded a grant to advance research on Crohn’s disease.
In addition, a SPARC grant was also awarded for research into intestinal fibrosis being conducted by Randolph in collaboration with Razvan Arsenescu, MD, PhD, an associate professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University. The two investigators will study the condition, which is often a complication of Crohn’s disease and may require surgical treatment.
The team, which was chosen by an independent governance council that included representatives of all members of the consortium, will be awarded $400,000 over two years. The grant will be used to accelerate the research projects and help translate their lab findings into novel treatments for a disease that affects approximately 700,000 people in the Unites States alone, as noted by the consortium in a press release.
SPARC for Translational Medicine aims to support translational research across the Midwest and help connect the power of public and private sectors. The consortium unites collaborations of large-scale translational medicine projects to other needed expertise in order transform medical findings into effective treatments.
“There’s a true wealth of expertise on autoimmune disorders across our membership, but there really was not a large-scale group in the region focused on the topic until the creation of this consortium,” stated the director of the Indiana CTSI, associate dean for translational research at the IU School of Medicine and associate vice president for university clinical affairs at IU, Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD.
“We’re eager to help these scientists advance their critical work on these diseases — many of which are poorly understood despite their impact on millions in the U.S. and worldwide — and hope they may quickly translate into meaningful advances in treatment and therapy,” added Shekhar.
The first series of funding granted by the research consortium, which is part of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, is meant to support scientific projects working on multiple sclerosis, lupus, dermatomyositis and scleroderma, in addition to Crohn’s disease. However, the consortium has announced that future funding will focus on other medical fields as well.
SPARC is comprised of four institutions, the Indiana CTSI, Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, which are also supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Awards, as well as the Northwestern University, The Ohio State University and the Washington University in St. Louis. The grants were awarded funding from Eli Lilly and Co. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which are industry partners of the consortium.