UC Program to Accelerate Translational Research Across State

By Kate Rauch

Imagine a statewide research engine of pooled resources, data, and expertise that accelerates the “translation” of academic research to direct patient benefit. That's the goal of the University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration, and Development (UC BRAID) program.

S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston, MD, PhD

S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor of research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UCSF.

In partnership with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), and in cooperation with the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) programs at the five UC medical campuses, the UC BRAID initiative capitalizes on the power of collaboration and technology to streamline research in California. 

Launched in 2010, this effort brings together expertise from UCOP and the five UC medical center campuses — UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UCSF — to catalyze change and reduce barriers to biomedical research.

“Campuswide collaboration is critical to bolstering research, especially in today’s economic uncertainty and regulatory complexities,” said S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor of research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at UCSF.

By bringing together UC medical center leaders and stakeholders to identify common challenges and potential UC-wide solutions, UC BRAID is also serving as a national model, according to Johnston. The effort has already seen early successes, including facilitating the linking of clinical trial networks, which for the first time offers patients access to cutting-edge therapies across the UC health system.

Identifying Shared Challenges

“The challenges facing UC include ever-changing regulatory requirements and our ability to advance research that improves health while maintaining the highest level of patient safety and privacy,” said Lars Berglund, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for research and director of Clinical and Translational Science Center at UC Davis. “It is our aim to help investigators overcome these challenges through an improved organizational infrastructure that is supportive while respecting the need for compliance.”

UC BRAID has established working groups to address several issues, including:

  • Cumbersome, inconsistent, and time-consuming contracting procedures;
  • Increased regulation and decreased funding around the discovery and development of drugs and devices;
  • Using informatics to access and utilize patient study data across campuses;
  • Improving reciprocity procedures of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs);
  • Establishing consistency in use of metrics for measuring outcomes and performance.

Among efforts to address these issues is the development and implementation of the UC Research Exchange (UC ReX) consortium, the first-ever, cross-campus searchable database of patient-level study data from all medical centers. The project is funded with a five-year, $5 million-dollar grant from UCOP, and is being implemented through UC BRAID. Serving as the liaison between UC Rex and UC BRAID is Gary Firestein, MD, dean and associate vice chancellor of Translational Medicine, and director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute at UCSD.

“The [UC ReX] collaboration between UC-wide bioinformatics, reciprocity for human studies approvals, and joint contracting is a paradigm changing initiative for the entire UC system,” said Steven Dubinett, MD, director of the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Other examples of early successes include:

  • Surpassing its goal to establish at least five Master Clinical Trial Agreements with major drug companies using a UC-wide, standardized template and a consolidated processing center at UCSD;
  • Initiating an online, campuswide IRB registry.

“Embracing the potential of advancing technology has also allowed us to establish performance metrics, reciprocity, synergy, centralization and modernization of the functions that support research within the UC system,” said Dan Cooper MD, director of the UC Irvine Institute for Clinical Translational Science. “The next generation of biomedical discovery must depend on collaboration and collegiality.”

For more information about UC BRAID, including an overview of initiatives and events, visit www.ucbraid.org.

UC BRAID Leaders by Campus:

UC Davis

Lars Berglund, MD, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Research, Director, Clinical and Translational Science Center

UC Irvine

Dan Cooper MD, Director, Institute for Clinical and Translational Science

UC Los Angeles

Steven Dubinett, MD, Senior Associate Dean, Translational Science, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research

UC San Diego

Gary Firestein, MD, Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor of Translational Medicine, Director, Clinical and Translational Research Institute


S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston, MD, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research, Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute