Division of Biology and Medicine

Brown Innovation and Research Collaborative for Health (BIRCH)

BIRCH aligns the research operations of Lifespan and Care New England health systems with Brown’s Division of Biology and Medicine, which includes The Warren Alpert Medical School, and the Brown University School of Public Health in a unified enterprise that will leverage the distinctive strengths of each institution.


Brown, Care New England, and Lifespan seek to serve as catalysts for innovative biomedical and health sciences, helping Rhode Islanders access cutting-edge therapies more quickly and easily, and bolstering the state economy and Rhode Island’s ability to secure funds for large scale research programs. Intended to spur research with high potential to translate into new patient therapies and interventions, Brown, Care New England, and Lifespan plan to streamline their research operations, invest in a research development and growth strategy, further develop their workforce, and strengthen connections between the basic sciences and clinical research. The path to implementing this initiative will be overseen by a Joint Executive Council (JEC) comprised of the health system CEOs and the deans of the Division of Biology and Medicine and the School of Public Health at Brown University.

Brown, Care New England, and Lifespan executed the Aligned Research Collaboration Agreement (“the Agreement”) in November of 2022. The Agreement outlines a phased alignment of the organizations’ biomedical and health sciences research activities, including research infrastructure support capabilities, in an effort to support research growth and innovation. The organizations aim to improve the researcher experience, attract patients and recruit and retain diverse, top-class faculty and staff, reduce administrative burden, and address barriers to growth. These research activities will be organized within the Brown Innovation and Research Collaborative for Health (BIRCH) that is supported by the three organizations. Through the Agreement, the organizations committed to a process to develop financial and operational components required to establish BIRCH.

The Agreement sets forth five key steps:

  • Recruit a Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO); 
  • Develop a financial model for the Center with input from a Finance Committee;
  • Develop an operational plan to align research activities with input from a Research Operations and Policy Committee and a Clinical Research Committee;
  • Establish a Research Advisory Council;
  • Finalize a Joint Research Strategic Plan that outlines the organizations’ vision and guiding principles for the Center.

The implementation phase of BIRCH will begin once the financial model, operational plan, and Joint Research Strategic Plan are finalized and approved by the JEC. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The organizations committed to engage in a process to develop the financial and operational components required to operationalize the Center
    • i. The Center becomes operational only when the JEC unanimously approves these components or modules
    • ii. Until that time, the organizations agreed to share the costs of recruiting the CSO and CAO
  • The organizations agreed that the Center will be overseen by the JEC, comprised of the Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences, (Chair), Dean of School of Public Health, CEO of Lifespan, and CEO of Care New England, and that the following committees/councils will be established: Finance, Research Advisory, Research Operations, Clinical Research
  • i. Adopting and amending the financial model
  • ii. Adopting and amending the operational modules of the Center
  • iii. Recruiting and recommending potential candidates for the positions of the CSO and CAO
  • iv. Changing the members of the JEC
  • v. Altering the committee and council structure
  • Financial analysis and projections aimed at understanding current investments in research, reducing research deficits where possible, and growing research revenues
  • A budget process and a coordinated plan for intellectual property
  • The Center’s budget for the year starting July 1, 2023
  • The operational plans will address the following for each office of the Center (clinical research, research infrastructure, research integrity [Internal Review Board, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Institutional Biosafety Committee], research finance, animal care, innovation and support):
    • i. Staffing and organization structure
    • ii. Performance and service levels
    • iii. Use of relevant facilities utilization
    • iv. Research informational technology platform
    • v. Other research support infrastructure

Given the very detailed nature of the required analyses, and the interdependence of the financial model and operational plans, it is estimated to take six to twelve months (depending on the priority of the operational area) from February 2, 2023 to complete this phase

No. Those investments will be determined in the same way they are currently—that is, by the institution and, in coordination with others according to the applicable Affiliation Agreements or practice.

  • Brown committed to a $20 - $25 million investment in the collaborative biomedical and health sciences research effort over the five years following signing of the Agreement
  • Brown will consult with the JEC about how that investment will be deployed, and will make the investment in a way that Brown determines is most advantageous to the collaborative initiative