URI College of Pharmacy, Providence VA form research partnership

THE UNIVERSITY of Rhode Island's College of Pharmacy and the Providence VA Medical Center have teamed up to establish a new research partnership. Pictured is the URI campus in South Kingstown. / COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy is collaborating with the Providence VA Medical Center on a new research partnership.

The new memorandum of understanding is meant to support collaborative research among URI, the medical center and Ocean State Research Institute Inc., a Veterans Administration-affiliated nonprofit research corporation.

The five-year agreement establishes a formal relationship among researchers that will allow them to work together on research grants, combine resources, confirm and expand on each other’s work, as well as share data to bolster research projects, according to the release.

“We have so many outstanding researchers in the College of Pharmacy, and the VA’s research program – which is already fantastic – will be augmented by this research partnership,” said pharmacy professor Kerry LaPlante, who was recently appointed dean of the URI College of Pharmacy, beginning in January 2024. “This will give URI researchers direct access to patients and patient samples. We depend on our medical school partnerships and our hospital partnerships because researchers need clinical samples for their studies. Now they can get them through this established relationship.”

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Projects under the agreement will focus on data science, bench or in-vitro research, as well as health services and clinical research. URI researchers can request access to the national VA database, which includes data from up to 8 million veterans and real-world test results, according to the release. Also, they may now be eligible for a VA research appointment.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with the URI College of Pharmacy,” said Lawrence Connell, Providence VA Medical Center health care system director. “Research is a critical component in our commitment to provide veterans with the exceptional health care they’ve earned through their service and sacrifice, both today and in the future.”

The partnership will also support the VA’s research mission, which includes “implementation science” to shorten the time it takes for discovery to take effect on patients’ health. Currently that timeframe is estimated at 17 years, but LaPlante said researchers hope to shorten it to three or four years.

“We want to implement science faster, and this partnership is an important step in that direction,” LaPlante said. “The mission of the VA is research. They have a long-standing commitment to research, and elevating the care they give veterans through evidence-based research. That is also why working and partnering with the VA is so exciting.”

For almost 20 years LaPlante and other faculty members have maintained clinical and research practice at the Providence VA Medical Center. LaPlante, who is chair of the R.I. Department of Health’s Antimicrobial Stewardship and Environmental Task Force, noted the partnership is an important step to advancing care for veterans and Rhode Islanders.

“It creates an opportunity for the College of Pharmacy and URI in general to have a research hub in Providence,” LaPlante said. “With all the great research being done at URI, at the VA and at Brown, we want to continue to grow this partnership and collaborate. Doing so elevates all of us. It increases access, it synergizes, and it elevates the care we give to Rhode Islanders, veterans and all patients.”

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com.

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