New epi studies group announces 22 contracts

Sites to bid on work in five domains

Twenty-one of 22 selected sites have signed contracts with the Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies (TBES) Consortium, with the last site due to iron out remaining contractual details soon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of TB Elimination (DTBE) announced last month.

The contractual arrangements will provide the DTBE with an efficient way to devise and carry out a research agenda for the coming decade. Research domains will encompass epidemiology, behavioral sciences, operational research, laboratory research, and health economics — everything, in short, except drug trials, says Scott McNabb, PhD, MS, chief of the Epidemiologic Studies Section of the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch of the DTBE.

Within the five domains, consortium members will be encouraged to develop their own agendas, McNabb says. Members "will create an intellectual property, in the form of a research agenda, that fits the tasks laid out by the Institute of Medicine, with short-, medium-, and long-term goals," McNabb notes. "It’s a very broad mandate, and we don’t intend to dictate the agenda."

Linking public health and academia

Contracts were awarded partly on the basis of applicants’ ability to demonstrate the existence of a collaborative partnership between a public health department and an academic institution, McNabb says. "Each [side] brings its own set of strengths," he adds. "The public health sector has access to patients, contacts, and laboratory facilities; the academic partner brings the experience in doing research. We thought that combination would be the ideal marriage."

The TBES Consortium is modeled after the DTBE’s Tuberculosis Trials Consortium, McNabb says. The most important difference is that the epi studies group lends increased emphasis to contractors’ having established a formalized relationship between academic and public-health partners, he adds. Terms of the contract ensure that contractors will receive a minimum sum of $50,000 over the ten-year span of the contract, with opportunities to bid on various research "tasks" as each task is offered.

Fourteen of the 22 sites have received full funding for the first task, says McNabb. That task includes setting up the relationship with the group, hiring a project coordinator, establishing standard operating procedures, and the like, he says. Some of the yet-to-be-funded sites have expressed consternation at the discovery that contracts they’d rushed to complete didn’t, after all, ensure that funding would automatically follow. With more money in the federal budget next year, all programs should get funded, McNabb says.

The second task consists of an immunogenetic research study. Seven sites have already been awarded contracts and are funded through a mechanism separate from the TBES budget. The third task will examine pediatric transmission of TB; the fourth will study a particular aspect of contact investigations, McNabb says.

The 14 sites that have received full funding for the first task include:

  • American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago;
  • Arkansas Department of Health;
  • Charles P. Felton National TB Center at Harlem Hospital;
  • Denver Health and Hospitals Authority;
  • Emory University;
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene;
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health;
  • New York City Department of Health;
  • Seattle-King County Department of Health;
  • University of British Columbia;
  • University of California, San Francisco;
  • University of Manitoba;
  • University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey;
  • University of North Texas Health Sciences Center at Ft. Worth.

The remaining eight sites (which may receive funding contingent upon availability) include:

  • California Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Hawaii Department of Health;
  • Minnesota Department of Health;
  • New York State Department — Health Research, Inc.;
  • Research Triangle Institute;
  • Tennessee Department of Health;
  • Texas Department of Health;
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham.