Distinguished Scholars Program launches at UH Case Medical Center's Harrington Discovery Institute

June 1st, 2012
University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center's Harrington Discovery Institute has launched a new program aimed at supporting physician-scientists seeking to move their research into therapies that will improve patients' lives. Goutham Narla, MD, PhD, formerly at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, has been named the first Harrington Distinguished Scholar (Early Career Award). Dr. Narla's research includes the identification and characterization of key genes and pathways involved in human cancer development and progression, and the development of novel drugs to target these genes in various cancers.

The UH Harrington Discovery Institute, launched in February, is the not-for-profit academic medical engine of the Harrington Discovery and Development Project - a first-of-its kind, $250 million initiative that also includes a mission-aligned for-profit commercialization and development company. Aligning these entities, for the first time at an academic medical center, provides a comprehensive model to advance discoveries into development and create novel drugs and therapies for patient care.

Through the Harrington Distinguished Scholars Program, a physician-scientist is chosen to practice medicine at UH Case Medical Center and to hold a faculty position at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Physician-scientists with potential breakthroughs are able to tap into grant funding and a peer network of innovators and mentors within the UH Harrington Discovery Institute's infrastructure to support their discovery efforts. Over the next decade, the UH Harrington Discovery Institute will recruit 10-20 physician-scientists of outstanding promise and with a determined interest in advancing the treatment of patients.

"We will be bringing physician-scientists with a wide range of experience to UH Case Medical Center—those who have already made exceptional contributions to their research field and others at the beginnings of their research and patient care careers who show extraordinary promise," said Jonathan S. Stamler, MD, the Institute's Director and Director of the Institute for Transformative Molecular Medicine at UH Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Dr. Narla's research involves a previously unrecognized signaling network of genes that is disrupted in lung cancer. This network can be turned on by a novel combination of two drugs previously approved by the FDA and that may also help to regulate lung cancer progression. The research has just been published online in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, a prestigious journal for physician-scientists. The work highlights how understanding the basic mechanisms regulating cancer development and progression can lead to new uses for existing FDA approved drugs in the treatment of cancer.

"My training as a physician-scientist did not prepare me to move clinical discoveries from my laboratory toward commercialization," said Dr. Narla, a medical geneticist at UH Case Medical Center who specializes in the care of high risk cancer patients.

"The added guidance and resources that come with being a Harrington Distinguished Scholar will enable me to bring my discoveries to patients more quickly," added Dr. Narla, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Institute of Transformative Molecular Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Scholar-Innovator Grants

In addition to the Distinguished Scholar program, UH Case Medical Center has recently launched a grant competition to physician-scientists across the country. The Harrington Scholar-Innovator grants will offer to support the translation of research from laboratory to early development stages.

Up to 10 physician-scientists each year will be supported with Harrington Scholar-Innovator grants of up to $200,000 over two years. Guiding the selection of the grant winners are seven prominent physician-scientists who have recently joined the UH Harrington Discovery Institute Scientific Advisory Board, among them Dr. Stamler.

"These grants are intended to ensure that physician-scientists can advance their discoveries and their careers that are dedicated to furthering University Hospitals Case Medical Center's mission: To Heal. To Teach. To Discover," added Dr. Stamler.

Provided by University Hospitals Case Medical Center

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