There are more than 6,000 diseases classified as ?rare? (defined as having a prevalence in the United States of <200,000 persons). While individually these entities are uncommon, as a group they are an important cause of chronic illness, disability and premature death in both children and adults. Despite their rarity, many fundamental advances in medicine have come from the study of rare diseases and these have benefited common diseases. Both because of currently inadequate therapy and the potential to assist common as well as rare disorders, the conduct of clinical research in rare diseases is essential. In order to assure the future of this research, the training of the next generation of investigators in this field is important. The NIH Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN, www.RareDiseasesNetwork.org) and the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award Program are the ideal groups to sponsor a conference addressing rare diseases research methodology that would supplement general training in clinical research and attract trainees and junior faculty into this important field. In 2007 the RDCRN held the inaugural ?Conference on Clinical Research for Rare Diseases?. This Conference, supported by an R13 grant was a tremendous success, attracted 200 attendees, fulfilled all the goals of the Organizing Committee and NIH sponsors, and received outstanding scores on evaluations. This R13 grant proposes to support the ?Conference on Clinical Research for Rare Diseases? in 2010 and 2012. These Conferences will provide information and resources to trainees and junior faculty that they can directly apply to their work and career development. The proposed conference format is of a full day program made up of short didactic lectures and panel discussions on focused areas relevant to the attendee?s current stage of career and research development. The issues that will be addressed include: 1) creating research networks, 2) study design and biostatistics in dealing with a small number of subjects, 3) utilizing the CTSA program for rare diseases research, 4) pathways for developing orphan products, 5) working with industry, 6) conflict of interest in rare diseases research, 7) the roles of patient advocacy groups in rare diseases research;;and 8) career advice. There will also be poster presentations, so that trainees can share with each other and with senior investigators of the RDCRN their current research and receive feedback. The final session will be a dinner with a keynote address given by a prominent clinical scientist. Members of the RDCRN Steering Committee (Consortia PIs, NIH program officials from multiple institutes, and patient advocacy group representatives) as well as investigators within the CTSA Program will participate in the conference. There will be an evaluation component where participants will fill out a form indicating the level of success in achieving our goals. Finally, the proceedings will be posted on the web and a summary article will be published.
The proposed conference will provide trainees and junior faculty engaged in clinical investigation in rare diseases with practical education in research methodologies specifically focused on studying rare disorders. By encouraging and assisting young clinical investigators involved in rare disease research, this conference will not only promote discovery of new insights into pathophysiology and treatment of rare diseases, but also result in all of the collateral benefits to general medical science and public health that rare disease research has provided throughout history.