PROVIDENCE – Taking the next steps in centralizing and building on its research capabilities, Lifespan announced Monday the creation of the Clinical Research Center, to be based at the health care conglomerate’s Coro Building in Providence’s Knowledge District, as well as at The Miriam Hospital in the city’s East Side.
The research center is part of the same effort that Lifespan announced a year ago, in which it stated its desire to turn the Coro Building’s 270,000 square feet into its main research campus, said Peter J. Snyder, Lifespan’s senior vice president and chief research officer, with space in the complex earmarked for both laboratory and clinical research efforts. The new center will be key to attracting both privately funded clinical research as well as publicly funded investigative research, he said.
To a large extent, the center will pay the bills, Snyder said, by running clinical trials under contract, which will allow Lifespan to use the capabilities developed there for educational purposes and other grant-making activities. “We want to see a balanced portfolio between public and private-sector research. And we want to meet long-term medical education training goals,” he said.
“We intend to mix preclinical and clinical research in the center because it fosters innovation,” Snyder added.
The center collects existing Lifespan resources, many of them augmented to meet the needs of its activities, along with new ones, he said, because the corporation sees the capabilities as important – must haves, Snyder said – going forward.
For instance, he said, the Biostatistics Core at Rhode Island Hospital has been doubled in size to accommodate greater research-data-management needs. Lifespan’s Specimen Processing Laboratory, located at The Miriam, has been operating for years, but the company has dedicated internal funding to improve its capabilities, Snyder said.
The investments Lifespan has made so far, for instance, have allowed the Warren Alpert Medical School to apply for a large clinical and translational science award (one Snyder could not specify Monday).
“If we didn’t have the CRC, we wouldn’t be competitive. The two go hand in hand.”
Eventually, he said, the goal is to host clinical research for investigators both within Lifespan and from outside institutions that have the need for support they cannot get elsewhere.
Lifespan has an extensive track record with research. It has garnered more than $80 million in outside funds in each of the last three years for research and those activities involve 550 employees spread out over 336,584 square feet of space.
The research center will have eight outpatient exam rooms at the Coro campus and at The Miriam, along with imaging capabilities and office space. But Snyder emphasized that the “real important thing here is the staffing.”
From research nurses to clinical associates, the staff will be available to help investigators get projects launched and to get them going in ways that are safe for subjects and follow all the appropriate procedures. At the moment, Snyder said, 10 to 12 people are focused on advancing the center’s goals.
The center facilities provide “a dedicated location for investigators to meet with study participants, and these additional resources will now enable many Lifespan clinical research teams to participate in multicenter trials and launch important research initiatives,” said Dr. Catherine Gordon, medical director of the Clinical Research Center, in a statement.
The CRC had a soft launch in the late fall, but Snyder said that Lifespan was now ready to make a more public statement. In fact, it is possible that it won’t be long before Lifespan has another kind of statement to release. The CRC is being considered for inclusion on a list of the 200 preferred clinical research sites for the largest contract research organization in the world. Being named to the list would mean Lifespan would be among the first considered when research contracts are put out to bid – something that happens often, since the researcher handles 1,800 clinical trials per year, Snyder said (he was unable to name the research organization until the contract is signed).
“If we didn’t have the CRC up and launched, they wouldn’t have visited us,” he said. And if the center is named to the list, staffing would have to grow rather quickly once trials started coming in.
In addition to the clinical exam rooms, the specimen lab and the biostatistics upgrades, Lifespan is bringing the following resources to bear on the project:
Biobank – a repository for specimens also located at The Miriam.
Rhode Island Hospital Medical Simulation Center – space in the city’s largest teaching hospital to conduct research.
Project management – Lifespan project management expertise will be available to research center investigators.
Clinical monitoring – research nursing staff from Lifespan will be available to collaborate with researchers.
Pilot/feasibility study sponsorship – by offering internal funding, Lifespan will help fellows or junior faculty launch pilot studies.
With the CRC, Snyder expects to see growth in research for pediatrics, cancer and cardiology, as well as potentially the areas of dermatology and psychiatry.