PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to expand research leading to potential advances for women’s health, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, a Care New England hospital, will receive over $11 million in funding over five years through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant program to boost interdisciplinary research related to women’s reproductive health.  Through the program, Women & Infants will integrate the research of investigators who have primary appointments in pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology and establish a collaborative research environment to study a large number of women’s health conditions. 

The congressional delegation, which wrote a letter of support for the grant, noted that Rhode Island has now received over $180 million of federal funding through the state’s eight COBRE and the Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) Network to further scientific research and economic development. 

The delegation also noted that the award is being announced on the heels of President Trump’s proposal to cut NIH’s budget for next year by 20 percent, and their reported request for an immediate $1.2 billion cut to the agency, which oversees groundbreaking, innovative medical research.

“I commend Women & Infants and its outstanding team of doctors, researchers, and health professionals for winning this competitive grant.  This federal funding will provide researchers with the necessary resources to take on high-priority research objectives that will have lasting effects on women’s health care in Rhode Island and around the world,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee who helped include a $2 billion increase for NIH medical research in the fiscal year 2017 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations bill, bringing NIH’s annual funding up to about $34 billion.  “I will strongly oppose the Trump Administration’s short sighted cuts to scientific and medical research.”

“Congratulations to the researchers and medical professionals at Women & Infants on winning this federal funding to help improve women’s health care,” said Senator Whitehouse. “We are fortunate to have Women & Infants providing exceptional specialized care to women and babies and conducting world-class research right here in Rhode Island.  This award is another example of the important investments the National Institutes of Health makes in our local economy and in the future of health care.”

“Women & Infants Hospital has provided Rhode Islanders with superior health care for years, and this $11 million federal grant will build on that care by bolstering interdisciplinary research for women’s reproductive health,” said Congressman Langevin. “This competitive grant award is a testament to the commitment of the doctors and health professionals at Women & Infants, and this funding will support them in their ongoing research to better the lives of women in Rhode Island and across the country.”

“President Trump has proposed slashing funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $5.8 billion in his budget outline, but this $11 million grant award is a great example of how NIH is strengthening Rhode Island,” said Congressman Cicilline, who advocated for this funding. “This exciting research will pioneer new approaches to women’s reproductive health. It will make a difference in the lives of women and help to position Rhode Island as a leading center of research and innovation. Slashing NIH’s budget would be devastating for the health of people around the country and would do real harm to our economy. I am committed to fighting for robust funding for NIH, and I urge President Trump and Republicans in Congress to abandon this reckless proposal.”

“I’m so appreciative of the ongoing support of our congressional delegation.  One of Women & Infants’ strengths is to advance innovation and discovery, as evidenced by the research being done through our COBRE for Perinatal Biology and now this COBRE for Reproductive Health, among other initiatives.  This grant is a significant opportunity for us to continue our groundbreaking research and keeps us on the radar as a premier research institution, locally, nationally and across the globe,” said Mark R. Marcantano, president and chief operating officer, Women & Infants Hospital. “This investment in research is so important because it enables us to continue to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, and to demonstrate that the most advanced techniques and research are born and reside right here at Women & Infants Hospital.  I congratulate Dr. Sharma and all of the professionals who will be part of this important research.”

Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence augment and strengthen institutional biomedical research capabilities by expanding and developing biomedical faculty research capability through support of a multidisciplinary center, led by a peer-reviewed, NIH-funded investigator with expertise central to the theme of the program.  The centers promote collaborative interactive efforts among researchers with complementary backgrounds, skills, and expertise.  Surendra Sharma, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics at Women & Infants, will serve as the Principal Investigator for the COBRE for Reproductive Health, and much of the research will focus on the long-term impacts that pregnancy complications may have on a woman’s health and how complications suffered by a woman during pregnancy can offer a window into other future adverse health outcomes.  Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, chair and Chace-Joukowsky Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and assistant dean for Teaching and Research in Women’s Health at the Warren Alpert Medical School, professor of epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health, and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Women & Infants Hospital and Care New England Health System, will serve as Deputy Director of the program.

In 2015, with support from all four members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, Women & Infants received a $5 million grant from NIH to support a COBRE for Perinatal Biology, which included funding for studies of fetal and newborn development, placental biology, and reproductive diseases including preterm birth and preeclampsia.  Dr. Sharma served as that COBRE’s Deputy Director.

Women & Infants is the ninth largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England, with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year.  The hospital is a major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology, and newborn pediatrics, and a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine.