The Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) was created by the New York State Council on Graduate Medical Education in 2000 to promote training of physicians in clinical research in order to advance biomedical research in New York State. The program was created as a result of research that demonstrated that New York had slipped from first to third nationally in its share of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding and was not producing the necessary clinical researchers to remain highly competitive. The importance of training clinician researchers for New York to regain its competitive edge has been heightened by new policies at NIH that will increase funding for clinical and translational research. Moreover, New York is well below the national average in its share of NIH funding received as large center grants as compared to individual investigator grants.
Regulations adopted in 2014 redesigned ECRIP to maximize the impact of ECRIP funding make New York State teaching hospitals more competitive for large NIH center awards, and stimulate collaboration within and among New York's teaching institutions. These regulations have been updated and are available as "draft proposed regulations" on the ECRIP website. These draft proposed regulations will apply to the new funding cycle. The program continues Individual physician research awards as well as provides larger Center awards to teaching hospitals. Teaching hospitals are eligible to submit for funding under either the Individual Award or the Center Award, but may not submit an abstract for both type of projects. Each award will include specific funding amounts. Any costs associated with the project in excess of the funding amounts described below are expected to be supported by the institution. Awards will be distributed using a reimbursement-type methodology to teaching hospitals that meet specific program requirements.
These awards will promote development of clinician researchers by funding physician ECRIP fellows to train in clinical research under a classic paradigm of one-on-one mentoring. Sponsor/mentors must have been a PI, Co-PI or Co-Investigator of a federal research or Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant within three years of the abstract deadline. There will be one two-year award made per teaching hospital at $75,000 per year. Institutions are encouraged to train two fellows at the same time in a team-based collaborative training model using additional in-kind or other grant funds. In no event will an institution receive more than $150,000 for an Individual Award during the two-year period. The institution is expected to provide whatever additional funding and resources may be needed for support and training of the research fellows.
These two-year awards will promote development of clinician researchers while providing seed funding for new center grants by requiring teaching hospitals to form research teams around themes, such as 'improved therapies for type 2 diabetes'. A theme may not be one that currently has federal center (P- or U-type) funding at the institution. The research theme must represent a strategically important growth area for the institution, preferably associated with one or more federal funding opportunities with a realistic project timeline. Teaching hospitals may submit an optional secondary abstract formed around a theme that is independent of the primary abstract if it intends to split award funding between two projects and it receives $400,000 or more in an annual State award. If a secondary abstract is submitted then both the primary and secondary projects must meet all program requirements. However, if the secondary project does not meet the program requirements but the primary project meets the program requirements, the primary project would qualify for the full award.
Each research team must be led by a director who will sponsor/mentor one project and coordinate the research team's activities. The director must be a PI or Co-PI of a federal research or PCORI grant within two years of the abstract deadline and supervised by a sponsor-mentor(s) at all training sites. For every $100,000 annually in State funding, the institution will be required to train at least one ECRIP fellow. Inter-institutional collaborations (with shared funding) involving other NY teaching hospitals and other NY entities such as private and public universities and colleges, government laboratories (e.g., Wadsworth Center, Nathan Kline Institute), local health departments, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are encouraged. All Center abstracts must include a match of at least $100,000, per year, by the institution with real (not in-kind) funds. All ECRIP fellows will be expected to work in a collaborative team-based training model.
In the current cycle, Individual and Center projects and ECRIP fellows may begin as early as April 1, 2015 but must begin no later then December 31, 2015. ECRIP provides funding for community-related research that is specific to an institution's region or population served. It is an open and flexible program, allowing for teaching hospitals to hire physicians in all subject areas of clinical research to perform patient-oriented, epidemiologic, behavioral, outcomes, health services and translational research. ECRIP is also leveraged by teaching hospitals to draw additional and substantial research funding from other sources (e.g. NIH, pharmaceutical companies, foundations) to continue the research.
ECRIP encourages teaching hospitals to conduct and train physicians in clinical research that will result in new positions in these facilities. Funding for research generates a substantial return on investment. According to a 2010 study prepared by Tripp Umbach for the Associated Medical Schools of New York (2010, The Impact of Medical Education on the State of New York), for every dollar in Federal and State research funding invested in New York medical schools, New York State receives a return of $7.50.
Since 2001, 874 project abstracts have been submitted for funding with 560 awarded to 65 teaching hospitals, totaling over $ 81 million in funding. During this period, 64 percent of all projects submitted received an award. Sample data from the first eight years of the program show that 73 percent of ECRIP funded researchers have continued in research and 81 percent of those that continued in research have remained in New York State. Of the total positions awarded to the teaching hospitals, 92 percent were filled.