Lifespan, CNE, Brown jointly agree to align health research operations

PROVIDENCE – Lifespan Corp., Care New England Health System and Brown University will in fact join forces on health care-related matters in order to benefit patients and populations within Rhode Island and beyond.

The two health service providers and the Ivy League institution announced Tuesday they have jointly signed an aligned research collaboration agreement in order to build a more innovative and efficient approach to conducting health and medical research. Additionally, the agreement outlines a new four-member joint executive council that, according to Brown, will govern the joint approach and provide oversight on the organization’s work to unify research operations.

This agreement comes several months after R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha denied Lifespan and CNE’s merger application, citing the “extraordinary” control the merged entity would have over Rhode Island’s health care system. The entities subsequently withdrew the merger application with the state.

However, during Providence Business News’ Spring Health Care Summit in early April, both Lifespan and CNE representatives were still looking to come together in a way that stops short of a full merger.

- Advertisement -

Per the new agreement between Lifespan, CNE and Brown, the health systems, Brown says, will align their research operations with the university’s Division of Biology of Medicine in a unified enterprise to leverage each institution’s strengths. The division includes the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Brown University School of Public Health.

Brown also says the agreement will help CNE, Lifespan and the university compete for larger funding opportunities by combining strengths in research infrastructure, core facilities and specialized equipment. It will provide new opportunities for clinical trials that could allow Rhode Islanders more access to new therapies locally, Brown said.

Additionally, each institution will financially support the research enterprise at existing funding levels. Brown has committed to investing an additional $20 million to $25 million once the agreement is fully operationalized, the university said.

“For years, our medical school and public health faculty, many of whom are physician-scientists based in our affiliated hospitals, have said that having three distinct research operations creates undue administrative burden that can at times discourage collaboration that could lead to exciting new biomedical discoveries and benefits for communities,” Brown President Christina H. Paxson said in a statement. “Coming together with Lifespan and Care New England on this shared vision marks a major step forward in enabling our world-class researchers to achieve even greater impact.”

Outgoing CNE CEO and President Dr. James E. Fanale said in a statement the new agreement is an “initial, but very important step” in aligning research across Brown, Lifespan and CNE and is confident the entities can move forward with putting the plan into place.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.