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Scientific Peer Review of Department of Defense Medical Research Program

Scleroderma advocate participated in evaluation of research grant applications.

Scleroderma advocate and support group leader Joan Maril, of Austin, Texas, recently participated in the evaluation of research applications submitted to the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) sponsored by the Department of Defense. Ms. Maril was nominated for participation in the program by the Scleroderma Foundation, based in Danvers, Mass. As a consumer reviewer, she was a full voting member, along with prominent scientists, during a review to help determine how the $50 million appropriated by Congress for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) will be spent on future scleroderma-related research.

Consumer reviewers are asked to represent the collective view of scleroderma survivors and patients, family members and persons at risk for the disease when they prepare comments on the impact of the research on issues such as disease prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life after treatment. Ms. Maril said that “Participation as a consumer reviewer was very educational, both technically and scientifically. The knowledge base of the members was most impressive. The research ideas in the pipeline were wonderful and demonstrated the need for more research funding. The process gave me hope for those of us with scleroderma that help is out there and we need to work hard to provide more monies for research.”

Consumer advocates and scientists have worked together in this unique partnership to evaluate the scientific merit of PRMRP research applications beginning in 1999. For Fy13, thirty-five consumer reviewers served on PRMRP panels along with scientists in the review process. Colonel Wanda L. Salzer, M.D., Director of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs expressed her appreciation for the perspectives of the consumer advocates in the scientific review sessions. “The Consumer Reviewers on each panel are instrumental in helping the scientists understand the patient’s perspective and provide valuable insight into the potential impact of the proposed project.  They bring with them a sense of urgency and remind all of the human element involved in medical research.”

During this peer review session, there were approximately 270 PRMRP research applications reviewed for 2013 fiscal year funds. Scientists applying propose to conduct innovative research aimed at the elimination of scleroderma. The PRMRP fills important gaps not addressed by other funding agencies by supporting groundbreaking, high-risk, high-gain research while encouraging out-of-the-box thinking.

To learn more about the Department of Defense’s Research Program, visit


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