A high-risk and high-return pilot research initiative funded by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, the Broad Medical Research Program (BMRP), recently reported the discovery of unprecedented new research insights into inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The new discoveries reveal that the investment into groundbreaking IBD research could accelerate the development of next-generation therapies for the disease.
Thanks to the support of the BMRP and CCFA, researcher Herbert Virgin, MD, PhD, an Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and head of the department of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was able to conceptualize how intestinal viruses affect IBD, and successfully published his work in the journals Cell and Nature, earning funding from the National Institutes of Health.
“Our exploration of IBD patients’ enteric virome (ie, the collection of viruses in the human gastrointestinal tract) is entirely new and could not have happened without the high-risk investment made by the BMRP-CCFA,” Virgin said in the release. “Now we have the evidence required to attract funding to test our hypotheses using animal models, and move forward toward establishing proof of the role viruses may be playing in IBD. Our research could lead to effective treatment of IBD by manipulating a patient’s virome. While that is several future studies and perhaps years away, Broad funding has allowed us to take the first, crucial step toward a new way of understanding IBD and, someday, bettering the lives of patients.”
According to Caren Heller, MD, MBA, the chief scientific officer of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), “The [Broad Medical Research Program-Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America] is important because it provides funding for potentially breakthrough IBD research that others aren’t willing to fund. Our approach for this program is different in that we fund early-stage investigation. Innovative ideas need financial support for early testing if they are to ultimately lead to effective treatment, diagnosis and prevention of IBD.”
The BMRP, first founded in 2001 by Eli and Edythe Broad’s foundation, has continuously been expanding its reach to include grant recipients across 43 countries, with a roster of nearly 400 skilled researchers who have all been selected to receive grants worth more than $47 million over the past 12 years of operations. The program’s efforts have allowed it to maintain funding for pilot investigations that give scientists opportunities to test novel ideas and produce preliminary data needed to be considered for larger grants.
“Because it’s based on the belief that great ideas can come from non-traditional sources, the BMRP-CCFA appeals to scientists from outside the IBD research community, such as immunologists, geneticists and those studying the human microbiome. Both basic and clinical investigators, scientists not currently working in IBD, and interdisciplinary teams are encouraged to apply.” The application process only requires a no-frills letter of interest, with no deadlines, an accelerated review process and normally grants funding within 3 months upon approval.
Both the BMRP and CCFA believe that Dr. Virgin’s new discovery as a result of the funding provided to his research through their program is only the beginning of showing how supporting groundbreaking research can yield substantial short- and medium-term results for the IBD community.