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Genius Grant Goes to Woman Who Can Improve HIV Treatment

By Nicholas Cimarusti

Susan Murphy, a University of Michigan statistician, won a $625,000 "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to further her research, according to The MacArthur Foundation. Murphy's research for the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research employs statistics to develop adaptive treatment regimens for patients with chronic or relapsing disorders.  

The MacArthur Foundation awards fellowship to researchers whose work is highly innovative and has the potential to provide future progress in their respective field. Murphy's Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (dubbed SMART) has the potential to improve treatment for patients with conditions such as ADHD, alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular disease. Using SMART, clinicians assess and modify patients’ treatments during the trial, "an approach with potential applications in the treatment of a range of chronic diseases… that involve therapies that are regularly reconsidered and replaced as the disease progresses," according to the Foundation.  

Murphy developed her models to answer questions concerning patient reaction to treatment progression — essentially, what to do when initial treatment procedures are no longer as effective. In her own words, "My research concerns how we might best collect data and analyze data to inform the sequencing of treatments for people who are dealing with critical conditions."

Murphy, a researcher and professor at the University of Michigan since 1998, is one of only 24 individuals granted MacArthur fellowships this years. She says she always wanted to combine her work with statistics and helping others. With her genius grant, Murphy's goal is now possible.

"This can help us form the collaborative relationships we need with clinicians and computer scientists so that we can really develop these just-in-time adaptive interventions," she said.

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