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HHRI History

Improving patient care and the health of our community since 1952

Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (HHRI) began in 1952 as the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) on the campus of Minneapolis General Hospital. A lot has changed since then, but the institution's mission has remained steadfast -- Improving patient care and the health of our community through research and education.  Below we take a look back at just some of the milestones in HHRI's 70-year history.

Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) established


The Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) was founded in August 1952 on the campus of the Minneapolis General Hospital.

Research grant commitment


Dr. Thomas Lowry received a tentative commitment for $100,000 from Mr. John B. Hawley, Jr. of the Northern Pump Company, as matching funds for a research building grant.

First research building


Ground breaking for our first research building.

Dairy cow donation


Dr. Claude Hitchcock noted a probable donation of several dairy cows, which he would authorize to be sold with the proceeds of the sale being made available to support research. He estimated this would amount to approximately $3,000, which would likely be distributed between building and operational costs.

First kidney transplant in the Midwest


Dr. Claude Hitchcock performed the first kidney transplant in the Midwest.

Hyperbaric chamber is constructed


The hyperbaric chamber was constructed. This hyperbaric chamber was an oxygen environment three times the normal pressure and four times the normal oxygen concentration. It was used for the treatment of gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, nitrogen poisoning, and vascular disorders. The chamber was 66 feet long and weighed 60 tons. One end of the research building had to be removed to bring the parts in for final assembly.

New hospital name


Minneapolis General Hospital became Hennepin County General Hospital (HCGH).

Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research founded


The Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research, now a division of HHRI, is founded at Allina. Since its inception, the Berman Center has been a leader in cardiovascular research and a clinical site for over 100 trials in heart and kidney disease, diabetes, women’s health, cancer, and neurological disorders. For several of these trials, the Berman Center initiated the investigation, and was responsible for study design, implementation, and analysis. 

As was the intent of founder Dr. Reuben Berman, a pioneer in the field of cardiovascular clinical research, the Berman Center's primary mission is to empower the medical community to offer better patient care through better research.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) established to oversee research


An Institutional Review Board (IRB)  was established to review, approve and monitor research involving human subjects at the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (now HHRI) and Hennepin County General Hospital (now HCMC). 

The IRB is charged by the federal government to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects in research.  All research involving human subjects that is conducted under the auspices of Hennepin Healthcare requires IRB oversight unless determined by IRB review to be exempt.

IRB members include hospital and community representatives, scientists and non-scientists. The IRB reviews research submissions to consider the risk and benefits to subjects and to ensure that research subjects provide voluntary and informed consent.  Studies subject to IRB oversight must maintain approval throughout the conduct of the study.

Bilateral lung transplant


The world’s first bilateral lung transplant into a human was performed at the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC).

Hennepin General Hospital becomes Hennepin County Medical Center


In 1976, Hennepin County completed a new hospital facility. The hospital also started sharing services with its next-door neighbor, the Metropolitan Medical Center. Hennepin County General Hospital’s name was changed to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Sexual Assault Resource Service (SARS)


The Sexual Assault Resource Service (SARS) was developed at HCMC by Linda Ledray, RN, PhD. One of the first Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs in the world, the SARS model has been replicated in every state in the United States and in many foreign countries as well. Under Ledray's direction, SARS was responsible for the founding of the International Association of Forensic Nurses in Minneapolis in 1992. SARS provides complete care to all victims of sexual assault, including care and documentation of injuries, assessment and prevention of STDs, crisis intervention and supportive care, and collection of forensic evidence. SARS works closely with law enforcement, crime labs, courts and prosecutors and advocates to provide evidence-based state-of-the-art care to all Hennepin County residents.

Key Researcher: Linda Ledray, RN, PhD, (Principal Investigator), retired

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Hennepin Faculty Associates formed


Hennepin Faculty Associates (HFA) was formed and a commitment to research was reaffirmed formally in the HFA Articles of Incorporation.

Alternative Medicine Clinic opened


The first Alternative Medicine Clinic opened at the hospital and acupuncture was used in a major research program.

Hitchcock Laboratories dedicated


26,000 sq ft of newly renovated laboratory space was dedicated as the Claude R. Hitchcock Laboratories.

Reorganization of research on campus


We reorganized with a new Board of Directors. The new Board was charged with ensuring the viability research into the future.

Women's Health Initiative


The Women's Health Initiative (WHI) is a long-term national health study focused on strategies for preventing heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women.  Launched in 1993, the WHI enrolled 161,808 women aged 50-79 into one or more randomized Clinical Trials, testing the health effects of hormone therapy,  dietary modification, and/or calcium and Vitamin D supplementation or to an observational study.  At the end of the initial study period in 2005, WHI extension studies continued follow-up of all women who consented.  This groundbreaking study changed the way healthcare providers prevent and treat some of the major diseases impacting postmenopausal women.  Results from the WHI Hormone Trials have been estimated to have already saved $35.2 billion in direct medical costs in the United States alone. Hennepin Healthcare physician and researcher Richard H. Grimm, Jr., MD, PhD, was the Principal Investigator at the Vanguard Clinical Center at HCMC.

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Emergency Department improves through research


After 10 years of research and development, the Emergency Department implemented IRIS (Integrated Real-Time Information System) to improve patient care in the emergency room.

Dementia and end-stage renal disease research


Under the direction of Dr. Anne Murray, MD, MSc, our researchers started investigating the relationship between kidney dialysis and dementia in older patients with end-stage renal disease.

Orthopaedic improvements to implanted devices


Orthopaedic researchers on our campus developed new methods to improve the way bone bonds to implanted devices and continued to research ways to reduce infection and enhance healing after orthopaedic surgeries.

AAHRPP awards us full accreditation


MMRF underwent a rigorous process to earn accreditation from the leading, independent organization that accredits institutions that conduct medical research trials on human subjects—the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP). Earning accreditation from this organization is indicative of our commitment to maintaining the highest level of ethical standards and practices in our medical research programs.

We have retained AAHRPP accreditation since 2011.

HFA-MMRF Integrate with Hennepin Healthcare System


Hennepin Faculty Associates (HFA) and Hennepin Healthcare System (HHS), which had shared a 28-year history of collaboration in providing health care and medical education, integrated in 2012. Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF), which was part of HFA, became a non-profit subsidiary of HHS.

Study shows integrated care affects health care use among vulnerable adults


Providing integrated medical care and social support services led to increased use of primary care among very low-income, childless adults in Hennepin County, who were enrolled in a Medicaid accountable care organization (ACO) following Minnesota’s expansion of Medicaid coverage. Strong primary care relationships, combined with mental health treatment, were linked to improved quality of life among enrollees of the ACO. The researchers also found the rate of emergency room visits for the patient participants declined during the study period. Hennepin Healthcare physician-investigators Kate Vickery, MD, MSc and Tyler Winkelman, MD, MSc collaborated with Hennepin County, the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan on the studies.

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MMRF rebrands as Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute


In March 2018, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) rebranded as Hennepin Healthcare to better describe its full system of care. 

In August 2018, Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMR) changed its name to Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (HHRI) to better align with its parent and affiliate organizations. 

ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE)


ASPREE, the largest international trial ever funded by the US National Institute on Aging (NIA), studied more than 19,000 participants age 65 or older who did not have significant medical problems in the United States and Australia. Participants took either a daily low-dose aspirin or a placebo.  Anne M. Murray, MD, MSc, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at Hennepin Healthcare and the director of the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research, is the US Principal Investigator for the study. The study results, published in September 2018 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), found that a daily low-dose aspirin has no benefit for healthy older people. Researchers also found a 38% increased risk of bleeding in those taking the daily aspirin.

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Amphetamine-related hospitalizations surged between 2003 and 2015, according to Hennepin Healthcare-led study


Amphetamine-related hospitalizations increased more than 270 percent from 2008 to 2015, costing up to $2.17 billion per year, according to a national analysis conducted by Hennepin Healthcare, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the University of Michigan.  Most of the hospitalizations were covered by Medicaid and occurred in the western United States.  Tyler Winkelman, MD, MSc, the study’s lead author, is an internist, pediatrician and health services researcher at Hennepin Healthcare.  Gavin Bart, MD, PhD, Director of Addiction Medicine at Hennepin Healthcare HCMC, was a co-author on the study.  The researchers analyzed national hospital data on 1.3 million amphetamine-related hospitalization cases in the United States.

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HHRI responds to COVID-19 pandemic


Even before the the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, HHRI researchers pivoted to focus on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.  

HHRI Infectious Diseases researchers, led by Jason Baker, MD, MS; Anne Frosch, MD, MPH; and Kristina Burrack, PhD, immediately responded to the global crisis by launching clinical trials to study the safety and efficacy of the investigative antiviral remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients diagnosed with moderate or severe COVID-19, and collaborating with the Mayo Clinic on a clinical protocol utilizing convalescent plasma as a therapeutic treatment for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

HHRI investigator and Hennepin Healthcare emergency physician Michael Puskarich, MD, partnered with the University of Minnesota to study the blood pressure medication losartan as a potential treatment for those recently diagnosed with COVID-19. 

While many HHRI staff and investigators were able to shift to working remotely in March 2020, several individuals remained on-campus to keep operations going, conduct research studies, and provide clinical care.

MN EHR Consortium collaborates with State of MN on COVID-19 vaccination data


In March 2021, the Walz-Flanagan Administration announced publication of COVID-19 vaccination data by race and ethnicity made possible through the groundbreaking partnership between the State of Minnesota and the Minnesota Electronic Health Record (EHR) Consortium. This unique and innovative collaboration between public health and health systems was the first statewide effort of its kind in the United States.

The mission of the MN EHR Consortium is to improve health by informing policy and practice through data-driven collaboration among members of Minnesota's health care community. The Consortium, through funding from the Minnesota Department of Health, is working to identify disparities in COVID-19 testing and vaccination by race, ethnicity, and other characteristics that can inform outreach efforts to underserved populations.  HHRI investigator Tyler Winkelman, MD, MSc, leads the consortium. 

HHRI awarded continuation of SRTR contract


In September 2020, the Chronic Disease Research Group (CDRG) of HHRI renewed its federal contract to operate the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). Among its key functions, the SRTR evaluates the status of the nation’s solid organ transplant system and provides analytic support to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) for purposes including the formulation and evaluation of organ allocation policies in the United States.

The renewal marks the third contract term for the operation of the SRTR for HHRI, which has operated the SRTR since 2010. The renewed contract contains a series of optional terms to extend through September 2025.

HHRI kicks off collaboration on a statewide program addressing health inequities


Sandra Japuntich, PhD, represents HHRI in a new research collaboration between HHRI, the University of Minnesota, and Mayo Clinic designed to research the impact of structural and interpersonal racism on health inequities.

HHS appoints Allyson Hart, MD, MS as IRB Chair


As the first woman to hold the position of Chair of the Hennepin Healthcare IRB, Allyson Hart, MD, MS, leads the campus human subjects protection program and the review boards responsible for the oversight of human research on the Hennepin Healthcare campus.

NIH recognizes Dr. Jason Baker for COVID-19 treatment contributions


NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci recognized HHRI investigator Jason Baker, MD, MS, for his contributions to the NIH Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Treatment Guidelines, which provide clinicians with evidence-based recommendations on the management of COVID-19. They acknowledged Dr. Baker’s expertise and dedication to participating in meetings and writing and editing content for the guidelines while responding to his extensive clinical and research responsibilities at Hennepin Healthcare. Dr. Baker is the Division Director of HIV Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Hennepin Healthcare and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. 

Dr. Warren McKinney appointed HHRI's VP for Equity in Research


Warren McKinney, PhD, was named HHRI’s VP for Equity in Research. The VP for Equity in Research is a new position at HHRI created to help Hennepin Healthcare and HHRI best meet their shared goal of improving equity in research by investing in a coordinated approach to reduce barriers and facilitate health equity research by engaging with minority communities in a more in-depth manner.


HHRI is the research arm and a nonprofit subsidiary of Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., an integrated healthcare system that includes HCMC, a nationally recognized Level 1 Trauma Center and acute care and teaching hospital.

Today, HHRI supports the work of 250+ research staff and investigators (MDs, MD/PhDs, PhDs and PharmDs) -- up from 24 in the early 60s.

HHRI is one of the largest nonprofit medical research organizations in Minnesota and consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of all institutions receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health.  In 2021, HHRI received 164 new or renewing sponsored awards for a total of $51.3 million, over 90% of which came from state and federal governments. Funding also came from industry partners, private foundations, and corporate and individual donations. 

HHRI researchers are experts in their fields tackling our biggest healthcare challenges, including COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, substance use disorders, life-threatening and time-sensitive conditions, chronic diseases, and access to care. They conduct basic, translational, clinical and epidemiologic research with a focus on four areas – Acute Care/Trauma, Addiction, Health Services and Infectious Diseases – with the priority throughout being to better understand and address factors that contribute to health equity and the concerns of the patient population served by Hennepin Healthcare.  

HHRI investigators collaborate with partners nationally and around the world, creating solutions to local concerns that have a global impact.

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