New funds for Rice, M.D. Anderson program

November 17, 2009

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) today committed four years' worth of funding for an innovative biomedical training program between Rice University and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The unique program -- founded with a 2006 HHMI grant -- capitalizes on the strengths of Rice's top-10-ranked bioengineering program and M.D. Anderson's internationally renowned clinical programs. The training gives incoming graduate students an early opportunity to see how laboratory research is translated into clinical practice. HHMI today pledged $700,000 to renew the program for four years, bringing its total commitment to just over $1.5 million.

"We've developed a summer 'boot camp' for Rice's incoming bioengineering students," said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the program's principal investigator and the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering at Rice. "They spend the summer before graduate school taking a course in anatomy and pathology, and going on clinical rounds in different specialties at M.D. Anderson. They get a firsthand look at what it's like to do translational research in a medical center, and they choose co-advisers for their own translational research thesis."

Richards-Kortum, an investigator in Rice's new BioScience Research Collaborative, said the HHMI funding renewal will allow Rice and M.D. Anderson to continue the existing program and to expand it to include students from M.D. Anderson's Department of Imaging Physics.

"We are very excited about continuing this program with our colleagues at Rice. These students are truly exceptional and this program provides them a head start on getting involved in translational research," said John Hazle, chairman of Imaging Physics at M. D. Anderson. "Expanding this program to include students from our world-class graduate program in medical physics with the Rice students combines our expertise in engineering and natural science to address translational research questions together."

The program addresses a growing awareness of the need to better translate scientific discoveries from laboratories into clinical applications that benefit patients.

HHMI's "Med to Grad" initiative is designed to address this disconnect by supporting innovative graduate programs that introduce Ph.D. students to the world of clinical medicine.

Rice and M.D. Anderson's program, "Translational Bioengineering for Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics," was one of 13 programs HHMI funded under its initial round of "Med to Grad" grants in 2006. HHMI announced 23 new awards for the program this week. The Rice-M.D. Anderson program was one of 11 programs to earn a renewal.
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