SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah has received a $22.5 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a nationwide consortium the NIH is building to speed the time it takes for basic science research to be put into clinical use for patients.
The five-year award, one of only 14 the NIH funded this year, will be used to establish a Center for Clinical and Translational Science, expanding on the School of Medicine's current clinical research center. James P. Kushner, M.D., associate vice president for clinical research and M.M. Wintrobe distinguished professor of internal medicine, is the principal investigator on the grant.
"This is going to help tremendously in expanding our ability to take basic science discoveries made in the laboratory and translate them into treatments for people," Kushner said. "Furthermore, it will allow us to include more of the community in our research and encourage and train new investigators."
The new center will build on the School of Medicine's strengths in genetics and biomedical informatics (the application of computers to improve the understanding, practice, and management of health care) and research will fall into two major categories: defining disease mechanisms and conducting population studies to improve health-care delivery and outcomes.
Kushner identified five goals for the new center:
- Establish an academic home for clinical and translational research
- Develop innovative health services and research programs in the community
- Develop core services to support the broadest possible spectrum of clinical and translational investigators
- Provide seed funds for new investigators and establish multidisciplinary research teams that can undertake projects likely to generate funding
- Promote the development of a new generation of clinical and translational investigators through a variety of educational programs
A. Lorris Betz, M.D., Ph.D., University senior vice president for health sciences, said the award recognizes the University as one of the nation's premier academic health-care centers in both basic science and clinical research.
"Research and patient care are primary missions in the health sciences at the University," said Betz. "This award will provide substantial funding to enhance those missions to improve the lives of people with various life-threatening and chronic diseases and conditions."
The CTSA awards are distributed and managed by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), part of the NIH, which awarded $533 million to the 14 institutions selected this year. Along with the University of Utah, the recipients included Harvard University, Northwestern University, the Scripps Research Institute, and Stanford University. This year's recipients join 24 other centers funded by the NCRR in the prior two years.
NIH Director Elias H. Zerhouni, M.D., said basic science research is a top priority in the agency and the CTSA consortium allows the NIH to maximize its investment in basic science by leveraging the experience and expertise of researchers in many institutions.
"With more than half of NIH's funding allocated for basic research, the CTSA consortium is perfectly poised to help move discoveries in the laboratory to improved patient care," Zerhouni said. "The consortium serves as the bridge in this process that allows researchers to perfect and refine existing treatments through interdisciplinary teams that extend to the clinic and community."
Along with speeding the transfer of basic science research from the laboratory to patients, the CTSA grant has two other major goals: engage surrounding communities in research and train the next generation of clinical and translational researchers. The new U of U center is divided into nine core areas, including one each for community engagement and research education, training, and career development.
The other core areas are: biomedical informatics; experimental design and biostatistics; regulatory knowledge and clinical research ethics; participant and clinical interaction resources; translational technologies and resources; novel clinical and translational methods; and pilot and collaborative studies.
The University plans to collaborate with the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs health system and Intermountain Healthcare on some of the research projects.
The University of Utah Health Sciences Center is internationally regarded for its research and clinical expertise in the health sciences. Through its School of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing, College of Health, and Eccles Institute of Human Genetics, the Health Sciences Center conducts pioneering research in human genetics, pharmaceutical drugs, cancer, and numerous other areas of medicine. The Health Sciences Center also is the major training ground for Utah's physicians, pharmacists, nurses, therapists, and other health-care professionals.