DETROIT — Wayne State University officials announced today that the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health has awarded the university a second 10-year contract to continue housing the 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.”
“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,” said Wayne State President Allan Gilmour. “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 between the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the NIH and the university is valued at $165.9 million, and is the university’s largest research contract.
“This is great news for the university, but also vitally important for women and the families of Michigan. Premature birth causes far too many deaths and disabilities. “The research and discoveries developed by the Perinatology Research Branch are changing medicine and saving lives around the world,” Dr. Valerie M. Parisi, dean of the WSU School of Medicine, said. “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 WSU 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. Dr. Roberto Romero, 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.
Romero said the, “NICHD/NIH congratulates Wayne State University for its success in receiving funding that would allow the branch to continue to address the most important problems that affect pregnant women and their unborn babies.”
The project site managers for the contract are the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Dr. Robert Sokol, Dr. John M. Malone Jr, the endowed chair and director of the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development, and Dr. Sonia Hassan, associate dean for Maternal, Perinatal, and Child Health.
“The collaborative accomplishments of the Wayne State University and Perinatology Research Branch team have changed medicine globally for both mother and child,” Hassan said. “There have been remarkable discoveries over the past twenty years, and we anticipate a revolutionary decade ahead. This partnership is unlike any other. We are grateful that the NICHD recognizes the extraordinary environment that has developed here in Detroit.”
Sokol said, “The modern, multidisciplinary clinical, and research environment of Wayne State University has grown alongside the PRB for the last two decades. Both the large WSU team and the PRB are committed to advancing maternal and perinatal health. We’re absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to continue blazing the trail together.”
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.
“The Detroit Medical Center has a long and distinguished history of strategic clinical partnerships placing us at the forefront of medical breakthroughs for our patients,” Joe Mullany, DMC CEO, said .”The renewed commitment of the NIH/PRB to Wayne State University and DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital continues our legacy of providing our area’s high-risk pregnant mothers and their newborns with the highest level of clinical research and medical care possible anywhere.”
The announcement is welcome news for Michigan and Detroit, both of which benefit from the presence of the PRB beyond the medical breakthroughs. 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.
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.