Maryland-based CRO will get $8.8 million over six years to coordinate $26 million in five-year contracts divided among nine centers.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and UnitedHealth Group have established the UnitedHealth and NHLBI Collaborating Centers of Excellence (COEs) network focused on chronic disease research in developing countries. Through this partnership, NHLBI will award 10 contracts totaling about $34 million.

This worldwide network of research and training centers is expected to build institutional and community capacity to prevent and control chronic diseases such as cardiovascular and lung diseases as well as diabetes. Each COE will be led by a research institution in a low- or middle-income developing country paired with at least one academic institution in a developed country.

Westat of Rockville, MD, will receive a six-year $8.8 million contract to serve as the administrative coordinating center for the NHLBI COEs. Another $26 million will be awarded as five-year contracts to nine COEs in Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, India (Bangalore and New Delhi), South Africa, Argentina, Kenya, as well as Peru and their respective developed nation partners.

“By developing infrastructures for research and training, the centers will apply their considerable expertise to enhance local capacity to conduct population-based or clinical research to monitor, prevent, or control chronic cardiovascular and lung diseases,” says Cristina Rabadán-Diehl, Ph.D., program director, NHLBI division of cardiovascular diseases and director of the NHLBI Centers of Excellence Global Health Program.

The centers will conduct research tailored to their local or regional needs to reduce the burden of chronic diseases like heart disease, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Related risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and environmental exposures that contribute to COPD will also be emphasized. Each center will also foster the training and mentoring of emerging scientists, physicians, and other health professionals as well as community health workers in collaboration.

“As part of the NHLBI’s expanding commitment to providing global leadership through research, training, and education,” remarks NHLBI director, Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., “we have also commissioned a report from the Institute of Medicine on the global epidemic of cardiovascular disease in developing countries, are establishing a global health office, and plan to join with other government agencies to create the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease.”

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