Translational Science Grants Include Awards for San Diego, New England

Xconomy San Diego — 

A program to accelerate the transformation of biomedical discoveries into patient treatments has awarded $37.2 million to a consortium headed by UC San Diego Health Sciences and its Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI). A $20 million grant also was awarded for a similar consortium in New England, headed by the University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science in Worcester, MA.

The five-year grants awarded by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) are intended to boost what’s known as “translational science,” a term now in vogue that encompasses the concept of rapidly translating lab research into new and effective therapies. The grants also are intended to enhance collaboration among clinical and biomedical researchers, and help to train a variety of scientists and medical practitioners. UCSD’s CTRI and UM’s CCTS are among nine research centers across the country to get a total of $255 million announced today as part of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program.

Information about all nine awards announced today is available here.

The National Institutes of Health, which launched the CTSA program with NCRR four years ago, has created a nationwide network of medical research centers to provide both clinical and translational science researchers with the funding, tools, and training they need to take basic discoveries from the bench to the bedside. With today’s awards, 55 institutions in 28 states and the District of Columbia are part of the consortium. A sixth and final round of awards is expected at this time next year. When fully implemented, 60 institutions will be linked together “to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science,” according to the NCRR.

The San Diego consortium headed by CTRI includes UCSD’s School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and San Diego State University’s School of Nursing and School of Public Health—along with at least 12 other clinical and research partners.

CTRI also plans to someday erect a 292,000-square-foot building next to the 10-story Jacobs Medical Center under construction in La Jolla, which could include a great metaphor of the consortium’s plans for transforming medical research into cures. The proposed CTRI building calls for building a skyway bridge to the Jacobs hospital, which is scheduled for completion in 2016. The skyway would literally connect the translational science researchers at CTRI with the real-world medical realities of doctors and their patients.

Gary Firestein

Gary Firestein

When asked how the UCSD institute can ensure its research in fact gets translated into new patient treatments, CTRI Director and principal investigator Gary Firestein replied in an e-mail, “We can’t promise to create companies or licensees for our members, but we can help bring projects along so that they’re much more attractive to the private sector.”

Firestein, who also is a professor of medicine and dean of translational medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine, said the CTRI also intends to boost R&D at its partner institutions through a variety of means, including:

—Improving the flexibility of intellectual property terms and management.

—Developing basic templates for contract and material transfer agreements, so every new study doesn’t have to start from scratch.

—Providing access to core facilities, biomarker analysis, and novel imaging technologies.

—Creating accessible biological samples that are fully annotated with medical records in a confidential manner.

— Supporting pilot projects, data analysis, preclinical models and a robust clinical research infrastructure that includes nurses and clinical coordinators, plus the space necessary to do the work.

The program issued a similar grant for $20 million in 2008 to the San Diego-based Scripps Translational Science Institute, which is headed by Eric Topol, the prominent cardiologist and a key figure at the West Wireless Health Insitute. That grant is being used to support community-based research and education to prevent obesity and diabetes, and includes The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Health, and eight other research centers.