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Posted 02.02.05

NIH-Trained Scientist to Create Cadre of 'Clinical Biodetectives'

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A family practice physician investigating alcohol problems wants to develop a more accurate measurement of past alcohol consumption. Across campus, a nursing researcher investigating smoking cessation wants to measure a specific protein, but no such device exists to assist her in the study. Now, a new program at the University of Missouri-Columbia will produce scientists to help solve these types of problems among current researchers.

Mark Milanick, a professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, recently received a National Institutes of Health training grant as part of NIH's new program, Training for a New Interdisciplinary Research Workforce. Milanick will train "clinical biodetectives," or interdisciplinary scientists who will be able to solve clinical problems by mastering the ability to invent and design new devices, and test them in a living system. This approach requires interdisciplinary cooperation and will train scientists who need to understand several different scientific fields instead of developing a specialty in one field.

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"We will take the research question or problem from the clinic to the bench and back to living tissue," Milanick said. "A major innovation of this program is that we will consider devices and approaches that will allow us to move from the bench to the community in situations where the patient and clinician are not necessarily in a hospital setting."

The clinical biodetectives program will provide this needed interdisciplinary education that ties together three areas: clinical needs, invention scientists and life scientists. More than 60 faculty members in 20 different departments from 6 schools and colleges at MU are involved in this effort. Each student that is chosen will be assigned a research project that has a problem identified by a clinician as an area for needed improvement. The student will devise a plan to solve the problem by designing an appropriate device and then testing it in a live setting.

"For years, we have solved problems through the collaboration of basic scientists and clinical scientists," Milanick said. "While that approach has been very successful in the past, this new training will develop a scientist with knowledge in both basic and applied areas, creating a new profession in the process."

Milanick and his colleagues are looking for prospective students for the program. Three different faculty members will mentor the student while in the program. For more information, visit



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