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Governor Rendell Announces $17 Million Investment To Promote Health Research


March 26th, 2007

HARRISBURG – Governor Edward G. Rendell today said Pennsylvania researchers will be able to better understand the causes of colorectal cancer, help reduce the need for one type of annual influenza vaccination campaign, and study how genes interact to cause lung cancer with the investment of four grants totaling nearly $17 million.

The grants will be awarded from Pennsylvania’s share of the national tobacco settlement for 2006-07.

“Health research in vaccine development plays a very important role in our efforts to protect our citizens from the significant threats posed by infectious diseases – such as SARS and avian influenza,” the Governor said. “The research that’s funded by these grants will help us in our ongoing efforts to improve the health of people who are disproportionately impacted by cancer and other chronic diseases.”

The non-formula, competitive grants are awarded based on research priorities that established and reviewed annually by the statewide Health Research Advisory Committee. The priorities for 2006-07 are vaccine development and gene-environment interactions research, which seeks to identify how genes and environmental exposures or behaviors may work together to increase the risk for cancer or other diseases.

Each research grant also focuses on reducing health disparities among underserved segments of the population, and includes research training programs for minority students and faculty.

The four grants announced by Governor Rendell are:

  • The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology – in partnership with Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Lincoln University of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania – will receive $4.2 million to generate a universal influenza A virus vaccine that induces protective immunity to all influenza A virus strains. This would reduce the need for annual vaccination campaigns and increase overall preparedness for influenza A virus pandemic.
  • The Pennsylvania State University – in collaboration with the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, Lincoln University of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley Hospital – will receive $4.2 million to examine how genetics and modifiable risk factors, such as cigarette smoking and dietary patterns, combine in northeastern Pennsylvania to increase colorectal cancer risk. The findings are expected to provide a better understanding of colorectal cancer; help to identify high-risk individuals; and assist in the development of colorectal cancer screening and prevention strategies.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – collaborating with the Albert Einstein Medical Center, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Geisinger Clinic, the Family Council of Philadelphia, and the City of Philadelphia – will receive $4.2 million to evaluate knowledge of and attitudes towards the human papilloma virus (HPV) and its vaccine, and study ways to increase the numbers of adolescent women in Philadelphia and northeastern Pennsylvania who are vaccinated.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – in association with the Pennsylvania State University Medical College and Lincoln University – will receive $4.2 million to study gene-environment interactions that increase the risk of lung cancer in African American and Caucasian smokers and non-smokers. The study will be conducted under the Gene-Environmental Initiative of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, or CEET.

The grants are awarded as part of the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program, which support clinical, health services, and biomedical research. The Tobacco Settlement Law, Act 77 of 2001, requires that tobacco settlement funds be used to address research priorities that are established and reviewed annually by a statewide Health Research Advisory Committee, chaired by the Secretary of Health.

Recently, Governor Rendell renewed his call for the General Assembly to adopt the Jonas Salk Legacy Fund to strengthen Pennsylvania’s use of research funding. The fund will provide $500 million in accelerated funding to the state’s leading bioscience researchers in academia and industry to stimulate novel research and development of medical innovations for the prevention, treatment and cure of the most serious and life-threatening diseases.

More information on the use of tobacco settlement funds can be found at the state Department of Health’s Web site for the health research grants program at www.health.state.pa.us/cure.

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Gary Miller
Office of the Governor
(717) 783-1116

Troy Thompson
Department of Health
(717) 787-1783

 
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