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$10.8 Million NIH Grant Milestone for Creighton Research

Aug 30, 2021
5 min Read

A research center dedicated to preserving or restoring hearing loss has been awarded the largest National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant in Creighton's history.

Creighton's Translational Hearing Center, established in 2019, has been awarded a $10.8 million grant, payable over five years and competitively renewable up to 15 years, by the NIH-affiliated Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). The award will fund a working partnership between the Translational Hearing Center, Boys Town National Research Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center as the three institutions seek to translate basic hearing loss research into practical therapies.

Led by Jian Zuo, PhD, chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Creighton, and Peter Steyger, PhD, professor of biomedical sciences and director of the Translational Hearing Center, the partnership will build a corps of academic researchers dedicated to battling hearing loss resulting from numerous causes in adults and children.

"As the largest grant ever awarded to the University, it will be transformative for Creighton's research," said Laura Hansen, PhD, associate dean for research at the School of Medicine. "The center's investigators will be supported by core facilities that will enrich the research environment for all biomedical researchers at Creighton."

Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, said the grant marks an important milestone. "This grant award is a historic moment for Creighton, and is yet another data point in our long track record of excellence in the health sciences," he said. "Dr. Zuo, Dr. Steyger and their team are on the cutting edge of research on restoring hearing loss, and importantly, I am convinced that their research in this area will improve the lives of children and adults who are impacted by hearing loss."

Robert "Bo" Dunlay, MD'81, dean of the School of Medicine, said the grant will boost the center's reputation even higher.

"The Creighton Translational Hearing Center is internationally recognized for groundbreaking research that has a simple goal: to improve the lives of countless individuals who are facing hearing loss," he said. "The COBRE is an important step on this journey."

In the grant application, Steyger said the Translational Hearing Center will work to speed the translation of research to clinical trials and from there into clinical practice.

"Hearing loss in infants and children results in delayed acquisition of listening and spoken language skills critical for academic achievement and impairs career trajectories of affected individuals," he said. "In the aging population, hearing loss without appropriate rehabilitation accelerates aging and cognitive decline."

Future plans call for expansion into investigational new drug applications, safety and efficacy studies and clinical trials.

The Translational Hearing Center was created in 2019 with a grant from the Bellucci DePaoli Family Foundation, which honors the memory of Richard Bellucci, MD'42. After graduating from Creighton and returning to his native New York City, Bellucci made some of the 20th century's most important contributions to the fields of otology and otolaryngology.

Center director Steyger, a native of Manchester, England, lost his hearing to meningitis as a 14-month-old and has since dedicated his career to preventing a similar fate from befalling other children.