Clinical Neurosciences Center

University of Utah Joins NeuroNEXT Clinical Research Network

Network designed to speed advances in the care of neurological disease

Jan. 4, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah Department of Neurology has been selected to join an elite national “network of excellence” to speed the translation of advances in neuroscience research into clinical practice.

The program, established by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), aims to improve treatment of a host of disorders in children and adults, including stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism and rarer autonomic disorders.

The network of 25 academic medical centers will be able to enroll more patients in larger clinical trials and complete them more rapidly than each center could by itself, explained A. Gordon Smith, MD, Professor of Neurology.

Smith is principal investigator of a seven-year, $2.1 million grant the University’s Department of Neurology received last month from NINDS to participate in the Network of Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials or “NeuroNEXT.” Smith is also chief of the Division of Neuromuscular Disease and Director of the University of Utah Peripheral Neuropathy Clinic and Cutaneous Innervation Laboratory.

“NINDS recognizes that there are challenges to confronting neurological diseases,” Smith explained. “While there are promising potential drug targets for numerous neurological diseases, there is a disconnect between the basic bench science where potential treatments are first identified and the bedside where they are carried out. The pharmaceutical industry is wary of high-risk therapeutics – those drugs with great potential but which also carry high costs to development, including the inefficiencies of multi-center clinical trials and the difficulty of enrolling study subjects. NeuroNEXT will streamline that process by creating a network of centers like ours here at Utah who are experts in neurological clinical trials. The program will create a way for us work together on these complex multi-center investigations and trials, increasing efficiency and quality of the trials while decreasing the time between discovery and application.”

The grant will enable the U to draw on the expertise of clinicians and scientists from a wide range of disciplines, while educating “the next generation of investigators in transformative neurological clinical trial design,” Smith said.

“The NeuroNEXT grant is a terrific opportunity for both the University and the community,” said Stefan-M. Pulst, M.D., Dr. med., Chair of Neurology. “It positions our investigators to be leaders in translational research in the clinical neurosciences and increases the opportunity for individuals in the area to participate in clinical trials.”

Kathryn Swoboda, MD, PhD is co-investigator on the NeuroNEXT grant at Utah. She is Director of the University of Utah Pediatric Motor Disorders Research Program and an expert in neuro-genetics who has pioneered research into the rare genetic condition Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

“NeuroNEXT is a huge advancement for neurological disease”, added Swoboda. “It’s inefficient to have a clinical trial network for every individual disease and cost-prohibitive for every department of neurology in the country to manage their own independent network. In addition, for rare conditions, you need a larger population base from which to draw potential study participants. NeuroNEXT will improve collaboration, increase efficiency, and be especially important to investigator-driven trials which do not yet have industry support or for trials for rare diseases.”

“Utah’s participation in NeuroNEXT reflects the strength of our research enterprise”, Pulst continued. “We have an outstanding reputation and great resources in genetics and other basic sciences, and the level of scientific and clinical collaboration here is extraordinary. NINDs recognized that we are one of the top centers for this kind of research. We are thrilled to be included.”

For more information, contact:

Dennis Jolley, 801-585-7777 office, 801-824-7217 mobile, dennis.jolley@hsc.utah.edu

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