A historic “intramural-extramural” partnership between the IRP and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has begun, with the aim of funding top-notch clinical researchers for up to 11 years each.
“Stable and extended funding is crucial for clinical research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The time needed to develop therapies and to take them from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside is significant.”
The Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program will support a small number of exceptional clinical researchers in the early stages of their careers to promote their development to fully independent positions. The first program of its kind, it combines a period of independent research as a Principal Investigator in the IRP for five to seven years with the opportunity to then either remain at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a tenured Senior Investigator or apply for up to four years of extramural financial support ($500,000 per year plus overhead) at a university or other external research institution.
“The number of U.S. physician-researchers has declined dramatically since the 1980s,” Dr. Collins said. “The Lasker Scholars Program will grow the diminishing pool of talented clinical researchers at the NIH and at academic institutions by giving them the necessary financial support to establish their careers. This is a substantial financial commitment that we believe will pay off in terms of developing treatments and cures.”
Lasker Scholars will have access to the NIH Clinical Center, the nation’s largest hospital devoted entirely to clinical research. Through an arrangement with the Lasker Foundation, scholars will have the opportunity to interact with Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award winners, who will help serve as mentors, as well as participate in many Lasker meetings and award ceremonies. The program honors the contributions of Mary and Albert Lasker to the NIH and to the overall biomedical community.
“The Lasker Foundation is proud to partner with the NIH in this important translational research initiative which will foster the next generation of physician-scientists, and harness basic biological research for the benefit of patients, society, and the world,” said Dr. Maria Freire, president of the Lasker Foundation.
A star-studded group of extramural clinical investigators—organized by the Center for Scientific Review—are currently reviewing the program’s first round applications for scientific and technical merit. The IRP and the Lasker Foundation hope to accept five Lasker Scholars per year for the next decade or longer.
Adapted from an article that appeared in The NIH Catalyst Volume 19 Issue 1, January–February 2011, by Deputy Director for Intramural Research Michael Gottesman.