Brown U. signs historic agreement with hospital groups to unify medical research efforts

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s most powerful health care institutions announced Tuesday that they have reached an agreement to streamline their collaboration in medical research, calling it a big step forward after years of inefficiency.

The recently signed agreement between Brown University and the state’s two largest hospital systems, Lifespan and Care New England, is the most significant joint move by the three organizations since Attorney General Peter Neronha scuttled a proposed merger between the hospital giants last winter.

“The simple principle that we operate on is that we are better and stronger together than individually,” Dr. Mukesh Jain, Brown’s dean of medicine and biological sciences, told 12 News.

Brown had been a strong supporter of hospital mergers, citing years of complaints that organizations are too siled, hampering local researchers’ efforts to work together on promising discoveries. Following Neronha’s decision, the leaders of the three institutions said they would look for other ways to come together aside from a full merger.

This culminated in the new Aligned Research Collaboration (ARC) agreement, signed earlier this month and announced on Tuesday, under which the two hospital systems “agreed to align their research operations with the Division of Biology and Brown’s Medicine”. He envisions a future where scientists and physicians handle paperwork and other administrative aspects of large research projects through a single entity rather than three separate entities.

“Currently, if a Brown-based researcher needs to collaborate with a hospital-based faculty member to achieve grant-funded research goals, they must work within the often redundant processes of each system,” Ronald said. Aubert, who serves as acting dean of Brown’s School of Public Health while its permanent dean, Dr. Ashish Jha, is on assignment at the White House.

“What we hope to accomplish as we work on the operational side of this collaboration is to empower our scientists, public health experts, and physicians to do their research, not paperwork,” Aubert said.

The announcement comes as the three institutions are going through significant transitions.

Care New England is preparing to welcome a new CEO, Dr. Michael Wagner, who will succeed Dr. James Fanale early next month. Lifespan’s longtime CEO, Dr. Timothy Babineau, unexpectedly stepped down earlier this year and has yet to be replaced.

Meanwhile, Brown’s President Christina Paxson has embarked on an effort to improve the university’s reputation and productivity as a research university, as outlined in a recent “Operational Plan to Invest in research” that formalized Brown’s commitment to this effort.

Last June, Brown announced plans to build a new integrated life sciences building in the Jewelry District near its medical school and hospitals. Brown will also be an anchor tenant in a newly announced biomedical facility anchored by a new state health lab, and has just leased wet lab space in Wexford’s 225 Dyer St. building.

“All of these things are really starting to build momentum for a health sciences district, if you will,” Jain said. “The Jewelry District will really have a strong health sciences presence, and all of this together will hopefully attract private partnerships alongside these public efforts.”

The new ARC agreement calls for Brown, Lifespan and CNE to create a joint four-member Executive Council – led by Jain – who will oversee the unification of their research efforts over the next 18 months, including the establishment of shared rules and regulations.

The two hospital groups, which are struggling financially, are not committing to increased research funding under the plan. But Brown has agreed to increase spending by $20 million to $25 million once the Joint Executive Council sets up the unified operation. They also hope that the simplified administrative structure will lead to larger grants.

Jain said he’s particularly optimistic about Brown’s researchers’ potential to make new discoveries in two areas: aging and age-related disorders, such as cancer and brain health, and immune biology. , which is gaining more attention after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really have a deep bench in our community,” he said.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and a 12 News political/economics editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook

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