Yale joins research alliance

Though Tony Blair no longer resides at 10 Downing Street, he couldn’t help but recall his days as Prime Minister while watching University President Richard Levin sign a transatlantic biomedical research partnership Thursday afternoon.

“This is what we used to do with treaties, actually,” he joked. “Just don’t sign it in the wrong place.”

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Nathan Laughton
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The agreement, which was signed in Woodbridge Hall, forms an alliance between Yale, University College London and both schools’ affiliated hospital complexes to conduct research focused on the direct improvement of patient care — a growing field known as translational medicine. In addition to the direct exchange of expert physician-scientists across the Atlantic, the two schools hope to facilitate joint studies and clinical trials conducted across a wider and more diverse population, according to a press release.

Prior to the new agreement, Yale had hundreds of other partnerships across the world, Levin said. But he noted that no existing collaboration matches the scale of the new partnership with UCL. Furthermore, according to Thursday’s press release, few existing university research exchanges include their associated hospital networks.

And Yale has found an academic equal in University College London, which is one of the United Kingdom’s top universities. But the benefits result from more than just doubling the intellectual resources, Levin said.

Professor David Fish, managing director of UCL Partners, a group of affiliated hospitals, who participated in the agreement’s signing, said he hopes the collaboration will introduce new forms of treatment, resulting in higher quality, more efficient hospitals.

“We have very different health care systems,” he said, contrasting the delivery of medical care in the United States and Britain. “But we face the same problems.”

In their speeches, both Levin and Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL, said the program was the brainchild of Dr. Michael Simons, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and Professor John Martin, a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UCL.

Martin, who attended the press conference, said translational medicine would be at the forefront of the new partnership, which will initially focus on cardiology research.

“We think you can do [translational medicine] very well by putting together the powerhouses of creativity in Yale and UCL,” he said. “We also believe very much in the concept of drug discovery within the university.” He said he hopes the partnership will focus on achieving practical results in an academic setting.

Blair praised his new employer but was equally proud of UCL. He said he was “delighted” that Yale decided to partner with a British university and that he hopes UCL’s relationship with Yale will be as positive and productive as his own.

Collaborating with an international university has many benefits, Levin said. He noted that many newly developed drugs and other therapies are approved for use in the United Kingdom before they are permitted in the United States. By working with UCL, Yale researchers hope to learn about these new treatments early and be experts on their use when the treatments are adopted in the United States, Levin said.

Both Levin and his counterpart at UCL pointed out that the universities are particularly well-matched in caliber given the schools’ positions on the Times Higher Education–QS World University Rankings, which were released Thursday morning. Yale ranks third on that list, with UCL following in fourth.

Still, even the spirit of collaboration did not stop President Grant from showing his competitive side.

“We hope to reverse that position,” he quipped.

In the future, the two schools hope to expand the partnership through increased infrastructure, such as a transatlantic fiber-optic network allowing for improved data sharing, and a coordinated doctoral education program.

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