While we are a clinical department within the U-M Medical School, the Department of Internal Medicine is also home to more than 130 basic, translational, and clinical research faculty members. Spread across 12 divisions, our research community successfully competes for funding from national agencies, foundations, and industry sponsored projects. Our scientists are dedicated to identifying and implementing real solutions to redefine how we practice medicine. We understand that great science can dramatically transform the lives of our patients here in Michigan and beyond.
"During 2016, the Department of Internal Medicine produced nearly 2,600 publications and was awarded more than $170 million in federal and non-federal grants, a five percent increase from the previous year. This follows on our success of 2015, when our department had more individual grants than any other department of internal medicine in the country except for the University of California, San Francisco. The future outlook for research funding remains positive with the development of several promising new initiatives" - Dr. Benjamin Margolis
21st Century Cures Act
The 21st Century Cures Act passed in late in 2016. Its purpose is to put policies in place to shatter barriers and ensure that the United States keeps up the pace of its research. The act includes a wide range of processes, including the discovery of cures in basic science, streamlining the drug and device development process and unleashing the power of digital medicine and social media at the treatment delivery phase.
As part of the act, the Public Health Service Act was amended to reauthorize funding for the National Institutes of Health through fiscal year 2018. It also establishes the NIH Innovation Fund to pick up the cost for the development and implementation of a strategic plan, early stage investigators and high-risk, high-reward research.
The Precision Medicine Initiative
President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2016 included $216 million in funding for the Precision Medicine Initiative for the NIH, the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration.
This initiative hopes to find new, more effective treatments for various kinds of cancer based on increased knowledge of the genetics and biology of the disease. It will also focus on bringing precision medicine to all areas of health and health care on a large scale (see page 32 to view some of the exciting work being done by internal medicine faculty).
National Microbiome Initiative
The University of Michigan is also part of the National Microbiome Initiative which was launched by the White House’s Oce of Science and Technology Policy in fall 2016. THOMAS SCHMIDT, PhD, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, director of the Center for Microbial Systems and one of the leader’s of U-M’s Host Microbiome Initiative, attended the launch event at the White House.
The NMI brings together more than $520 million in new and existing federal, private and university funding to enhance microbiome research and education. This funding adds to an already strong microbiome effort across several U-M schools and colleges, fueled by nearly $45 million in competitive research grants and internal funding (see page 64 to learn more about these efforts).
- James Shayman, MD, Agnes C. and Frank D. McKay Professor of Internal Medicine and professor of pharmacology at the Medical School was named U-M’s Distinguished Innovator Award for 2016 for his work that has led to a simpler and more effective approach to treating lysosomal storage diseases such as Gaucher disease. Read more.
- Forbes' $17.5 million gift to stimulate cancer research which will create the Senior Forbes Scholars and Emerging Forbes Scholars programs in cancer discovery. It will also establish the Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professorship in Oncology awarded to Max S. Wicha, MD. Read more.
- Lona Mody, MD, speaks with NPR radio- "Issues Of The Environment: Fighting Superbugs And Hospital Infections". Read more.
- U-M joins new national initiative to enhance microbiome project. Thomas Schmidt, PhD, head of the Michigan Microbiome Project, attended the launch at the White House. Read more.
- After helping to clarify the beneficial role of naturally occurring gases such as nitric oxide and carbon monoxide in the cardiovascular system, David Pinsky, MD, shows that the enzyme CD39 can prevent atherosclerosis in mice. A membrane-bound enzyme that lines human blood vessels, CD39 expression is greatest where blood flow is smooth and reduced at bend and branch points where blood flow is turbulent — which is also where plaque naturally tends to accumulate. His group is hopeful that the protective role of CD39 will have implications for the management of cardiovascular disease. Read more.
- U-M team seeks to outsmart C. difficle with new $9.2 million effort. The research will seek new ways to prevent and treat infections that kill more than 14,000 Americans each year. Read more.
- David Markovitz, MD, publishes the first demonstration that two functions of a lectin (sugar-binding protein) can be separated through targeted molecular engineering. The resultant molecule, which is derived from a compound found in bananas, could become a clinically effective broad-spectrum antiviral agent, as it is highly active against influenza, MERS, SARS, Ebola virus, HIV, and hepatitis C virus. Engineering of lectins also holds promise for helping to unravel the mysteries of the Sugar Code, the mechanism by which complex sugars transmit information in the body. Read more.
The state of the current funding environment also underscores the need for philanthropic support of our research. It was great news to hear that four of the six U-M clinician-scientists appointed to the 2014-2017 class of Taubman Scholars by the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute are from our department. Each will receive an unrestricted grant of $150,000 per year for three years, to be used to pursue high-risk, high-reward translational medical science. The Taubman Scholars from internal medicine are:
- Kathleen Collins, MD, PhD, Infectious Diseases — Improving therapies for HIV
- Pavan Reddy, MD, Hematology/Oncology — Understanding and harnessing the role of inflammation in mitigating the graft-versus-host disease after bone-marrow transplant
- John Carethers, MD, Chair, Department of Internal Medicine — Understanding the role of inflammation in colon cancer
- Sharlene Day, MD, Cardiovascular Medicine — Understanding the disease mechanisms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy