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NIH renews UI StrokeNET grant

Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2018

University of Iowa stroke researchers have received a five-year, $1.5 million competitive grant renewal from the National Institutes of Health to continue to run a research infrastructure of 12 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota aiming to generate and efficiently perform clinical trials in acute stroke treatment, stroke prevention, and recovery. 

The UI is one of the 25 Regional Coordinating Centers in the United States that constitute the StrokeNet network.

The UI Regional Coordinating Center (UIRCC) encompasses a large multidisciplinary group of clinical researchers from multiple departments whose members participate in stroke care, including neurology, neurosurgery, radiology, vascular surgery, emergency medicine/EMS, internal medicine, public health, as well as basic neurosciences.

The center facilitates translational stroke research and the development of new clinical trial proposals within the university. This mission has been facilitated by a dedicated pilot trial program supported by the UI Carver College of Medicine and Institute of Clinical and Translational Science. It also promotes the timely and efficient execution of NIH stroke trials within the network infrastructure through master trial agreements and central IRB agreements.

Fostering collaboration and training

Heena Olalde portrait

Enrique Leira portrait

The UIRCC is led by Enrique Leira, MD, associate professor of neurology, along with Heena Olalde, RN, MSN, the UIRCC coordinator. Leira said that during the last cycle the UIRCC generated two trial proposals in acute stroke treatment and secondary stroke prevention. 

“Having this infrastructure in place has allowed us to bring together researchers who did not know each other’s work previously and channel our efforts into successful clinical trial proposals,” Leira says. “The network also has an important education mission, and we trained and launched the stroke research careers of trainees from different backgrounds (neurology, neurointerventional surgery, and clinical pharmacy). It also engaged local co-investigators from different disciplines in leading the recruitment of StrokeNet clinical trials within the UI. This resulted in UI Hospitals and Clinics being the top enroller in the DEFUSE-3 trial, the first clinical trial to be generated and executed through the StrokeNet trial network.”

An emphasis on rural stroke care

The university’s contribution to the network includes an emphasis to improve the care of patients with stroke in rural areas. 

“Traditionally, the rural population has been underrepresented in clinical trials due to a number of reasons, including resources, time, and distance from the trial site,” Leira say. “This leads to a gap in rural vs. urban stroke care. By engaging with clinical community partners throughout Iowa as well as Nebraska and North Dakota, we are taking important steps to address these differences. In the next five years we expect an explosion of clinical trial proposals through StrokeNet, and it will be an opportunity for us to contribute with a significant number of rural patients in these trials to help mitigate this gap in stroke care based on location.”