Media Contacts

Stacy W. Kish

Science Writer, Marketing-Communications

Apr 23, 2018 3:30 PM

Rachel Hess, MD, and Willard Dere, MD, FACP

University of Utah Health has received a $22 million renewal of the Clinical and Translational Science Award to help amplify translational research to ensure discoveries reach patients faster and improve health care. The monies will be distributed during the next five years.

“The Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) is an accelerator for our institutions,” said Rachel Hess, MD, co-director of the Utah CCTS with Willard Dere. “This renewal grant will allow CCTS to strengthen our infrastructure scaffolding to ensure that our region is a top notch translational medicine enterprise that empowers our community.”

CCTS serves as the central locus of translational research in the Mountain West and has become the center for combining the efforts of the University of Utah and its partners into a vibrant research enterprise that advances both clinical projects and the science of translational research. The CCTS Foundations and Cores provide a suite of services to advance translational research projects, provide robust research training courses and programs, and create an environment that rewards team science and collaboration with internal and external partners.

Hess and Dere believe the strength and longevity of partnerships are integral to the organization’s success. To date, CCTS has partnered with Intermountain Healthcare, Utah Department of Health, Community Faces of Utah, and Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System at the local level and with the Western Consortium nationally. Through these collaborations, the Utah CCTS have helped tackle projects focused on opioids, dementia, maternal-fetal health, cardiology, thrombosis, and pulmonary research. The renewal funding establishes new partnerships with Utah Health Regional Affiliates and Health Insight, which will strengthen translation of health care from bench to bedside to population.

“Our new collaborations will help us take clinical and translational research out of the ivory tower,” Hess said. “We want to safely and effectively conduct clinical studies in partnership with rural, frontier, and regional hospital systems and believe this approach will increase translation of findings to under-represented groups, including rural and frontier populations, minorities and women.”

Hess also credits the Utah CCTS partnership with the Community Faces of Utah for success in the renewal. Community Faces has been nationally recognized for its work bringing community voices into research. The Utah CCTS plans to establish Community Engagement pilot awards, which will offer a new approach to health care. Rather than researchers going into the community with research ideas, the community will come to researchers with a research question. The Utah CCTS will help these communities partner with the appropriate research team, which could lead to an observational study or clinical trial.

"I believe Utah’s past is the key to our future,” said Willard Dere, MD, FACP, co-director of the Utah CTSA. “Our record of gene discovery is our calling card.”

For more than half a century, U of U Health has been at the forefront of genetic science and discovery, identifying genes and risk factors for breast and ovarian cancers (BRCA 1,2), colon cancer (APC), heart arrhythmia (HERG) and 30 more conditions. Experts in gene discovery benefit from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) that matches genealogical, public health, and medical records of more than eight million people. These family histories offer the lens that experts use to uncover inherited genetic mutations that cause disease. The renewal grant will allow this important work to continue. 

“I am very pleased that this renewal will allow us to enhance translational science across the entire spectrum of health care, from community engagement, to best practices in informatics, to our work in precision medicine,” Dere said. “Our success will benefit not only our community in Utah but across the country.” 

Under the leadership of the National Institute of Health, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the CTSA program supports a national network of 57 actively funded CTSA institutions that work together to improve the translational research to ensure treatments reach patients more quickly. 

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