Research Institute Accelerates Discovery   

Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute Accelerates Discovery and Innovation in NJ’s Largest Health Network

HMHRI brings together health network expertise - for the benefit of patients

The Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute (HMHRI) is accelerating scientific progress for patients across New Jersey.

The HMHRI was formed this year to bring together all the many departments and areas of expertise across the state’s largest and most comprehensive health network, Hackensack Meridian Health.

Key to the network’s mission to “Transform health care and be recognized as the leader of positive change” is the continued development of cutting-edge, transformational research which can help patients now, and in the future.

The HMHRI brings together an academic health ecosystem applying scientific rigor to the most urgent clinical problems - seamlessly and rapidly translating discoveries into novel interventions and therapy developments. The HMHRI is dedicated to accelerating discovery, innovation, and translation of scientific breakthroughs that address unmet clinical needs.

“The Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute brings our research operations to the next level,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, Hackensack Meridian Health’s president of Academics, Research and Innovation, founding chair of the HMHRI, and also associate dean of Clinical Integration and professor and chair emeritus of Urology at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “The extensive expertise and prowess of our talented team members has come together under one banner.

“As our many experts proved during COVID-19, we have a lot to be proud of within our health network - and it’s only getting better,” added Sawczuk.

The power of a connected ecosystem of academic scientists, clinicians and commercial partners in accelerating discovery and innovation is it addresses unmet clinical needs in real time.

An ultimate objective is to integrate these discoveries into its own care delivery model, thereby positively impacting individual and community health.

The HMHRI leads, organizes and supports academics, research and innovation activities across 17 Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals, including the three academic centers at Hackensack University Medical Center, JFK University Medical Center, and Jersey Shore University Medical Center; the Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI); the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine; and numerous other locations across New Jersey.

Physicians, nurses, scientists, and other experts often collaborate across the entire Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute, and partner with other institutions, as they did to great effect during the challenges of COVID-19.

By the numbers, the HMHRI has:

  • >~3,600: # HMH researchers
  • 250+ Principal Investigators with active studies
  • 1,000+: # active studies
  • 600+: #open clinical trials

The HMHRI counts among its recent developments:

  • Over the past four years, HMH has experienced remarkable growth, more than tripling its externally-sponsored research portfolio across the translational research continuum, as its research grant expenditures and industry clinical trials revenue increased from $31.1M in 2019 to over $100 million in 2022.
  • Thematic areas of current research strength for HMH (based on externally sponsored funding) are infectious disease, cancer, genetics and epigenetics, pediatrics, neurosciences, and aging. These span all the care transformation services (CTSes) across HMH: oncology, neuroscience, womens and Childrens, rehab, musculoskeletal, behavioral health and cardiovascular.
  • The Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) has itself grown to encompass more than 155 scientists and support personnel, over its first three years. The institution is funded by $165 million in research commitments over the next five years through government, pharmaceutical, biotech, and foundation sectors, as well as private philanthropy. Among this funding is a major NIH grant - $65 million over the first three years - secured in May 2022 to establish a new program to discover antiviral drugs in response to COVID-19 and other pathogens.
  • Hackensack Meridian Health researchers published more than 261 publications on COVID-19 over the first two years of the pandemic - a growing literature contributing to virtually every facet of our knowledge about the virus and how to diagnose, treat, and manage it.
  • Among these pandemic advances were diagnostics, viral variant screening, and the development of therapies by the CDI, which assisted the state’s largest comprehensive health network on the clinical side of the pandemic fight.
  • Part of the vision is to bring together nursing research across HMH. Plans include forming a Center to integrate the nurse-scientist research from across the network, providing a home for the development of nursing science.
  • The HMHRI is also focused on the critical factors of diversity, equity and inclusion; areas of focus that address health issues of minority populations, and outreach that will strengthen connections between the Research Institute and the communities served by HMH. The health network has a Population Health Science program (inclusive of outcomes research, implementation science, health equity, and SDOH) - all of which is of especial focus within the RI.
  • The HMHRI is establishing a centralized model across HMH, bringing together a dynamic research environment that has a different culture than the clinical enterprise and requires investments in infrastructure, processes, standard operating procedures, and tools to ensure optimal value, accountability, and performance.

“The development of our Research Institute across this large and successful health network means better health for all of New Jersey - now and into the future,” said Sawczuk.

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