Bethesda, MD—The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has made the first two awards in a new program to establish Centers of Excellence for Research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The purpose of these new centers is to bring the highest level of scientific rigor to research on CAM. While millions of Americans are using CAM, few of these practices have been tested for safety and effectiveness. These centers will help address this critical public health need.
NCCAM, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), established the Centers of Excellence to support established researchers in applying cutting-edge technologies to explore the underlying mechanisms and potential benefits of CAM practices, which are often used to address critical public health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and chronic pain.
“The establishment of these first Centers of Excellence is testimony to the continuing maturation of research on CAM. Highly accomplished investigators at major research institutions are dedicating themselves to exploring CAM. The field needs this enhanced level of experience and rigor to transform the promise of CAM into proven treatments,” said Stephen E. Straus, M.D., NCCAM Director.
The first two 5-year grants in this program, funded using the NIH Program Project (P01) mechanism, were awarded to:
- Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Principal Investigator: Bruce R. Rosen, M.D., Ph.D.
Through the use of neuroimaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) as well as physiological and gene microarray studies, this Center will study how acupuncture affects human brain activity. The research projects in this Center will seek to understand the neurobiology of acupuncture. The total award is $5.9 million.
- Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Principal Investigator: Balz Frei, Ph.D.
This Center will study the mechanisms of antioxidants, such as alpha lipoic acid, and explore their potential roles and implications for the prevention and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and aging in general. The total award is $5.8 million.
“These awards will provide exciting new opportunities for experienced scientists to investigate fundamental questions related to CAM,” said Margaret A. Chesney, Ph.D., NCCAM Deputy Director. “The Centers of Excellence will help us better understand the mechanisms of action of several CAM modalities, a step that is critical to further research and, ultimately, to integration into prevention and treatment.”
The Centers of Excellence initiative is one of three new NCCAM research center programs. They were implemented following the review of the NCCAM centers program by an expert panel in 2002. The panel reviewed the original CAM centers that were established shortly after creation of NCCAM in 1999. Based on the lessons learned from these first centers, and in response to the evolving opportunities and challenges in CAM research, the expert panel recommended that NCCAM adopt a flexible approach to structuring and supporting research centers and encourage a greater focus on the pursuit of original science. In response to these recommendations, and based on the goals of its strategic plans, NCCAM designed the following three new programs to build its next generation of research centers:
- Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM (CERC) for established research organizations;
- Developmental Centers for Research on CAM (DCRC) specifically for CAM institutions; and
- Planning Grants for International Centers for Research on CAM (PICRC) to stimulate U.S.-international research partnerships.
Announcements of awards for the latter two new programs will be made separately.