July 26, 2019
UTHealth is an established a leader in clinical and translational research. When the National Institutes of Health looked to improve the efficiency and quality of clinical studies through the creation of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, UTHealth was one of the first sites funded.
Fast forward 13 years, and UTHealth is proud to lead CCTS version 3.0 with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and our new partner institutions, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and Rice University – institutions that reflect the diversity of Texas.
The grant renewal brings in over $37 million over five years to support research and includes two training programs – a TL1 for training graduate students and postdoctoral students and a KL2 for the career development of young clinician scientists. Also included is a Translational Workforce Development component, which provides training for those who participate in clinical and translational research – from research nurses and coordinators to principal investigators. New in version 3.0 is a focus on Non-Medical Opioid Use, which addresses this national issue at a local level, specifically focusing on Mexican-American patients. Special populations, including children, the elderly, Hispanic cancer patients, and sexual and gender minorities are a focus of the CCTS’ studies so that these groups may be fairly represented in research. Another new component is the CCTS’s Learning Healthcare component, which aims to improve patient outcomes by integrating learning into physicians’ everyday practice and applying novel methods of identifying the best therapies.
Last week, CCTS principal investigators Dr. David McPherson, chair of our Department of Internal Medicine, and Dr. Daniel Karp, medical director of the Clinical Translational Research Center at MD Anderson, along with co-PIs Dr. Jiajie Zhang, dean of the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, and Dr. Robert Bast, vice president for translational research at UT MD Anderson, convened a kickoff meeting at the Cooley Center to plan this next phase of the CCTS. Speakers included Joseph Woelkers, Andrew Dentino, Jane Grande-Allen, Elmer Bernstam, Eduardo Bruera, Melissa Peskin, Sujatha Sridhar, Constance Johnson, M. Hossein Rahbar, Holly Holmes, Kathy Franco, Daniel Karp, David McPherson, Sean Savitz, Jon Tyson, Belinda Reininger, Trey Miller, Michael Blackburn, Michelle Barton, and Tiffany Bisbey. See the schedule
The daylong meeting was a wonderful venue to bring investigators together and to learn more about what the “CCTS will do for me,” as Dr. Karp put it. The CCTS isn’t just a multi-million grant aimed at a specific treatment or disease state, its goal is to serve the communities we serve through the expansion of community engagement and clinical studies, ultimately improving treatments and outcomes.
To spearhead research, five types of pilot grants will be available: junior faculty grants; multidisciplinary research program grants; community engaged scholars programs; developmental therapeutics clinical trial pilots; and Texas regional CTSA consortium pilot grants. These grant opportunities aim to encourage collaboration and to jumpstart the careers of junior clinicians, enriched by research. Pilot grant funding has historically proven very successful, with subsequent extramural grant support, new clinical studies, and important publications. From a business perspective, these seed grants have had a remarkable 10 to one “return on investment.”
In addition to funding, the CCTS offers many resources for researchers, such as biostatistics and research design services, access to a clinical data warehouse with more than 4 million patients (updated daily), and a bioinformatics service unit available for custom data analysis.
The CCTS offers the resources of Clinical Research Units of Memorial Hermann Hospital, LBJ General Hospital, Brownsville, UTRGV, MD Anderson, and UTHealth Tyler. Building upon our strengths and resources, we have the opportunity to expand our reach and strengthen these units to further clinical research throughout Texas.
The meeting also discussed the challenges we as academic medical institutions have to foster clinical research – how do we support young clinical investigators, offering them protected time to devote to research? Some of our departments have made successful inroads in this area.
There are so many to thank for working incredibly hard to bring the CCTS V.3 to life: Steven Idell, UTHealth Tyler; Andrew Dentino, UTRGV; Jane Grande-Allen, Rice; Maureen Goode, administrative director, UTHealth; Scott Harrison, financial director, UTHealth; Tricia Hill-Thomas, executive assistant, UTHealth; and countless others—in addition to those mentioned above.
This is an amazing opportunity for clinical and translational research to grow in a thoughtful and strategic way under the guidance of a collective of experts. We are fortunate to be part of this national collaborative, with the power to forge a remarkable future for clinical and translational research and to make a meaningful impact on the lives of the patients and families we serve.