Rhode Island Hospital awarded $5.8-million NIH grant for skeletal health

November 13, 2017

The Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for Skeletal Health and Repair at Rhode Island Hospital recently secured a $5.8-million, 5-year Phase III COBRE grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to support ongoing research in the area of cartilage and joint diseases. The center, led by principal investigator Qian Chen, Ph.D., brings together researchers with the common goal of developing treatment for musculoskeletal diseases including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, bone tumors and genetic bone diseases.

“This funding for Phase III is the capstone on a decade of work,” said Chen. “We have achieved tremendous success in building our research capacity and funding eligibility in musculoskeletal diseases, and Phase III will allow us to transition the COBRE research infrastructure into a competitive, independent, and self-sustaining academic center of excellence over the next five years.”

The COBRE for Skeletal Health and Repair supports a multi-disciplinary approach to translational research, with clinicians, biologists and engineers all aiming to find practical applications that will bring benefits to patients in the near future. The center provides state-of-the-art core services in imaging, molecular biology, nanomedicine and bioengineering to biomedical investigators, and continued grant funding allows for investment in this laboratory infrastructure. In turn, these upgrades will enhance Lifespan’s commitment to nationally recognized medical research efforts.

“We are so pleased that this funding gives deserved recognition to the hard work of Dr. Chen and his team,” said Margaret M. Van Bree, M.H.A., Dr.P.H., president of Rhode Island Hospital. “Rhode Island Hospital and our sister hospitals in the Lifespan system are committed to delivering the best in clinical care, and simultaneously advancing medicine through our research. These COBRE funds allow us to drive that work forward.”

COBRE grant funding also assists junior faculty with mentoring activities and pilot project support, toward the goal of creating preliminary research and tangible results that will then make these junior investigators highly competitive when seeking outside sustaining support. Among 11 full project junior principal investigators in Phases I and II, eight have achieved their own major federal grant funding and “graduated” from the umbrella of COBRE. Through aggressive funding of 14 pilot projects, a new generation of musculoskeletal investigators has been recruited to the center, and all 20 junior investigators have now received extramural funding as principal investigators. COBRE junior investigators have published more than 240 peer-reviewed articles including landmark discoveries in Nature, Molecular Cell, and PNAS.

Collectively the COBRE has enabled musculoskeletal and joint research at Rhode Island Hospital along with Brown University to achieve prominence nationally and internationally. The Rhode Island Hospital COBRE for Skeletal Health and Repair holds the disctinction of having been funded in its first attempt for each of its three phases, Chen said, unusual in a competitive process that sometimes requires two or more submissions for each phase. The center was twice awarded $11 million – in 2007 and 2012 for Phases I and II, respectively.

Christina Spaight O'Reilly

Rhode Island Hospital