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CTSI Transforms Research at UCSF

By Jennifer Charney

By Jennifer Charney Established one year ago through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) to accelerate the pace at which scientific discovery is translated into patient care, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is already transforming the research community at UCSF. "The message of CTSI is that we need to work in new ways if our patients are to benefit from our science," says Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy. "As much as CTSI is about translational science, it is also about transforming the underlying systems that determine how we work. It is about changing perceptions, attitudes, administrative processes and resource allocations to enable translational science to flourish." Koda-Kimble credits the CTSI directors and basic and clinical research faculty for meeting the need for systems change head-on and for their tremendous success so far. UCSF School of Medicine Dean David Kessler says the CTSI has been a catalyst for change and an important resource for the research community. "The CTSI has worked across the campus to provide more comprehensive and accessible services for UCSF researchers," Kessler says. "It is developing structures and resources that will make it easier for our faculty to pursue translational research and will create pipelines for junior scientists. CTSI has also worked with academic leadership at all the four schools to improve recognition of multidisciplinary, team-based clinical and translational research." UCSF School of Nursing Dean Kathy Dracup has long called for taking an interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching. "The CTSI's emphasis on translational research is very important for the faculty and students in the School of Nursing," she says. "Research programs of the majority of our faculty involve the translation of basic science to clinical care and prevention of illness. We are not only involved in the transfer of research from 'bench to bedside,' but also the transfer from 'neuron to neighborhood.' All of the efforts of the CTSI team have increased our abilities to collaborate across structural units and to gain in the synergy of talents brought to the CTSI." Strengthening Collaboration Indeed, the CTSI exemplifies the UCSF Strategic Plan's call to transform basic and clinical research efforts to prevent, treat and cure many disabling diseases, as well as to foster interdisciplinary innovation and collaboration, in part by strengthening collaborative research interactions across UCSF sites and schools. In addition, the CTSI will strengthen collaborations with partner research institutions around the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally through a consortium of CTSA awardees, says Joseph (Mike) McCune, CTSI program director, professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Experimental Medicine, and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research.
Sarah Nelson with patient

Sarah Nelson, UCSF professor of radiology and director of the Surbeck Laboratory of Advanced Imaging at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, or QB3, is collaborating with GE Healthcare to develop new magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and spectroscopy techniques that are expected to enable earlier diagnosis of cancer and other diseases and treatment tailored to individual patients. Nelson is a member of the CTSI.

The CTSI is working to speed the translation of research into better treatments for patients through 14 programs. Ten of these programs stem from NIH specifications. UCSF added four programs: Virtual Home, designed to enhance communication and collaboration between clinical and translational scientists across all University campuses and affiliates; Career Advancement, focused on ensuring that clinical and translational researchers are mentored, acknowledged and promoted; the Global Health Program, which will extend interdisciplinary work and collaboration into the international arena; and the Health Policy Program, which will help researchers evaluate the policy impact of research. These programs are designed to train investigators in clinical and translational research methods, integrate existing infrastructure to enhance the design and implementation of clinical and translational studies, and provide a virtual home to foster communications and simplify collaboration. Many programs are now offering services, some for free and some by recharge. Making Progress "Our involvement from the beginning of the CTSI reflects the School of Dentistry's long held core philosophy that clinical and translational research plays a pivotal role in the advancement of scientific discovery to patient care delivery," said Richard Jordan, professor and director of the Oral Pathology Diagnostic Laboratory. "While many in the dental school have been directly involved in clinical and translational research for many years, the establishment of the CTSI provides a welcomed and invaluable platform to foster and enhance cross-campus collaborations, program development and implementation. We are encouraged by the progress of the CTSI thus far and welcome continued building of this critical part of campus research and discovery." Pat Calarco, interim dean of the Graduate Division, is looking forward to future collaborations with the CTSI that will enable PhD students to learn more about clinical medicine. "For example," she says, "studying how insulin works in a cell can seem far away from the clinical consequences of diabetes for a patient. I believe students working in the lab will benefit from the perspective of doctors who treat these patients, and this knowledge will inform and inspire their research." Among other developments: * The Strategic Opportunities Support Center awarded more than $1 million to 23 team projects to stimulate career development and translational science research. * The Biostatistics, Research Ethics and Design Program is offering consultations to researchers needing help with study design and implementation, data management, analysis and interpretation, manuscript and grant preparation, and ethics issues. * The CTSI has integrated the three existing NIH-funded UCSF Clinical Research Centers and has added four clinical research sites to provide new research opportunities. McCune reflects on the CTSI's accomplishments in its first year. "This heightened focus on clinical and translational research has prompted many campus researchers to come together and to ask the question, 'How can we best pool our resources and our areas of expertise so that we can most effectively meet common needs in the pursuit of such research?'" he says. "These efforts are very exciting, and could be the most important and lasting impacts of this effort on the UCSF community going forward." Photo by Elisabeth Fall Related Links: UCSF Begins to Implement Campuswide Strategic Plan
UCSF Today, October 19, 2007 UCSF set to transform itself into engine of translational research
UCSF Today, October 3, 2006